Diffusion of Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy Among General Surgeons in the United States

Published in: Medical Care, v. 35, no. 3, Mar. 1995, p. 256-271

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 1995

by Jose J. Escarce, Bernard S. Bloom, Alan L. Hillman, Judy A. Shea, J. Sanford Schwartz

Introduced in 1989, laparoscopic cholecystectomy has rapidly become the treatment of choice for symptomatic gallstones. This study describes the diffusion of laparoscopic cholecystectomy among general surgeons; assesses the importance of various reasons for surgeons adopting the procedure; and examines the influence of surgeon, practice, and health care market characteristics on the timing of adoption. The data were obtained from a survey of a national sample of surgeons. Most surgeons (81%) adopted laparoscopic cholecystectomy by early 1992. More than three fourths of adopters identified the desire to keep up with the state-of-the-art and improved patient outcomes as very or extremely important reasons for adoption. Results of proportional hazards regression analysis indicate that individual surgeons' adoption behavior generally was consistent with expected utility maximization in an uncertain new technological environment. Of particular interest, fee-for-service payment and more competitive practice settings and markets were associated with earlier adoption. These findings suggest that the technological imperative and surgeons' perception of the relative clinical and financial advantages of laparoscopic cholecystectomy were important reasons for the rapid diffusion of laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Policies that accelerate current trends toward payment of physicians based on salary or capitation and promote the growth of multispecialty group practice could slow the diffusion of new physician-based product innovations in health care.

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