Behind Rising Health-Care Costs

New technologies for medical treatment can push prices sharply higher, even when the benefits are modest. Low-tech solutions can be more effective

Why do medical costs keep going up? Walk into the University of Maryland Medical Center for a heart bypass operation and you'll see one reason. Maryland is one of the few hospitals in the country to use a robot for heart surgery. Developed first by the military and then for commercial use by Intuitive Surgical (ISRG), the da Vinci robot is manipulated by a surgeon seated several feet away from the patient. The machine takes minimally invasive surgery to a new level, allowing the tiniest of incisions and enabling doctors to operate in extremely tight places. The robot is already a popular option for prostate surgery, and proponents praise its ability to trim patient recovery time by a third.

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