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Strategic Impact of a New Academic Endocrine Surgery Program



A minority of medical centers possess a dedicated endocrine surgery program. Here we assess the short-term impact of a new endocrine surgery program on institutional case volumes and financial endpoints.


We studied all endocrine procedures performed over a 5-year period spanning the inception of the endocrine surgery program at UCLA. Institutional and state-level data on patient geographic origin, discharges for endocrine diagnosis-related groups (DRGs), and hospital-side charges and costs were examined.


Total endocrine case volume increased 112% (264 to 559 cases annually) over the study period. The relative increase was greater for parathyroid (56 to 196, 250%, P < 0.0001) and adrenal (11 to 31, 181%, P = 0.06) procedures compared to thyroid procedures (317 to 442, 39%). The endocrine case volume of nonspecialist surgeons remained stable over the study period. Growth in referrals arose from previously unrepresented zip codes and was associated with an increase in the mean distance traveled for care (2006, 44 miles vs. 2009, 92 miles, P < 0.01). In each DRG, UCLA attained the top market position within one year of the program's inception, corresponding to an overall 27% increase in regional market share. Total hospital charges for endocrine DRGs rose 161% to $14.7 million annually, while the cost of parathyroid surgery fell 34% (P < 0.001).


The establishment of an academic endocrine surgery program can cause fundamental shifts in referral patterns within a competitive, densely populated metropolitan environment. Hospitals should consider the inclusion of an endocrine surgery program in strategic planning initiatives.

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