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Editor's Page
A Fresh Look; A Fierce Battle
Dan O'Connor
Publish Date: October 10, 2007

Dan O First things first. Our new look. After threatening to do so for many months, we've redesigned our pages with what we hope you'll agree is a fresher, cleaner, crisper look.

Dan O

The content hasn't changed, just the packaging.

As with everything we do, our new look is meant to make the time you spend with us each month as valuable and as enjoyable as possible.

This issue, No. 51 in Outpatient Surgery's history, also marks the unveiling of our expanded editorial board and list of consulting editors. Rather than keep our advisors buried at the bottom of the masthead in 8-point type, we've given them a page of their own, a flip from here.

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Physician-owners? Glad you asked.

It's hard not to see-saw on this issue because both parties jockeying for control of the surgical dollar can make awfully strong arguments.

If the question is should surgeons be allowed to have equity interests in surgical facilities?, my answer is a firm and fast yes.

Physicians receive the same fee regardless of where a procedure is performed, so there's no way it's a conflict of interest for doctors to refer patients to a facility in which they have an investment. Physician-owners only benefit if the facility generates a profit. To achieve that, the facility must be better at what it does than its competitors. Tough to argue with that.

But I'm on shakier ground if the question is twisted to what about the health and welfare of our nation's hospitals?

On the one hand, you can't expect hospitals to stand by and watch surgeons rip whatever profitable veins there are from the institution. It's bad enough surgeons are diverting profits and patients to facilities in which they are investing, but it's salt in the wounds to then turn around and send costlier cases to the hospital.

Enough Ping-Ponging. Here's where physicians edge hospitals out. If it's wrong for physicians to have an ownership interest in and refer patients to surgical facilities, why isn't it wrong for hospitals to employ physicians who refer patients to them? And riddle me this: How is it that the hospital community doesn't appear to have concerns with those speciality facilities that aren't perceived to interfere with their economic interests?

Our story on the scrutiny of physician-owners begins on page 34.