Press releases

Optum Bariatrics featured in Albuquerque Business First

Release Date: 7/17/2015

Sal Christ Reporter
Albuquerque Business First

Optum's focus on minimally invasive surgery is saving patients and their health plans thousands of dollars — not to mention allowing surgeons to do more in less time.

According to Dr. Ryan Tyner, lead physician for the organization's surgical department, Optum has approached its surgical procedures from a minimally invasive perspective for at least 15 years — particularly over the last four years.

"What we do is general and bariatric surgery — predominately on the abdomen, such as hernia, gallbladder, colon and bariatric surgery. Our strong focus is on minimally invasive surgery — [surgeries that require smaller incisions] — that are called a laparoscopy. All of these surgeries used to require 10-to-24-inch incisions, whereas these only require quarter-to-half inch incisions. The number one reason we offer [minimally invasive surgeries] is because of quicker patient recovery and lower complications," he said.

Tyner said that approximately 90 to 95 percent of the organization's surgeries are minimally invasive, which essentially allows the surgeons to do more in less time. Furthermore, he said the cost savings associated with minimally invasive surgery numbers in the thousands.

Consider this: in 2013, the average appendectomy (appendix removal surgery)cost $13,910 in the U.S. Depending on what percentage of a patient's health care costs an insurer such as New Mexico Health Connections is covering, that's $13,910 that either the patient or the insurer, or a combination of both, will pay the health care provider. In theory, the higher an insurer's claims costs are, the higher health insurance premiums will rise and the more businesses and consumers will pay into health insurance plans.

According to Tyner, a minimally invasive appendectomy saves $1,500 on average; cost savings with a colectomy are higher: about $7,500 — a procedure that traditionally costs about $20,000 or more. 

While the benefits of minimally invasive surgical procedures might appear to apply only to health plans and patients, the procedures boast lower complication rates, which indirectly may affect readmission rates — two factors that can affect the amount hospitals are paid for treating Medicare patients. Though complication rates for ABQHP were not immediately available, Tyner said that if "hospitals across the country performed MIS approaches, there would be 4,300 fewer complications, 169,000 fewer days spent in the hospital and $337 million in savings."

The Optum shift alignined its offerings with growing patient needs. A number of other Albuquerque providers offer minimally invasive surgical procedures, including UNM Hospital.


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