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AORN Blog - The Periop Life

3 Ways OR Nurses Can Impact Healthcare Costs

OR Nurses Impact
May 12, 2021

Dr. Marty Makary
Dr. Marty Makary, MD, MPH, FACS

What would happen if airlines didn’t give you a price for your flight until after you’d landed?

It’s likely that pricing would be inflated and frustratingly unpredictable – similar to the healthcare industry, says Dr. Marty Makary, MD, MPH, FACS, the author of “The Price We Pay: What Broke American Healthcare – and How to Fix It,” and a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Perioperative nurses have an opportunity to play a multi-faceted role in helping to fix what’s broken in healthcare, through advocacy and education at their facilities and in their communities. “Nobody has a better vantage point on care than nurses,” Makary says.  


Improving Transparency in Cost and Quality

Improving transparency and removing inappropriate care are the most important avenues for fixing our healthcare system, Makary believes. These two factors are driving the escalating healthcare cost crisis that has led to more than 25% of Americans struggling to pay their medical bills.1

As out-of-pocket costs for medical care have skyrocketed, the demand for transparency in healthcare pricing has grown. Yet it can still be difficult for a patient to find out the cost of a routine surgical procedure. “People deserve an answer when they ask how much it will cost,” Makary says. 

The root cause of the issue is the vicious price negotiation cycle involving various stakeholders in the healthcare system, says Makary. Although the challenges are system-wide, here are a few ways perioperative nurses can contribute to a better overall healthcare experience for patients.

  1. Confidently share your ideas for improving care.
    Often the solutions for how to make care more efficient already exist on the front lines, Makary points out. Nurses’ inherent focus on patient-centered care and patient advocacy leads them to create better ways to deliver appropriate care.  
  2. Partner with others on the care team to innovate. 
    As a surgeon, Makary says he relies on nurses to share the opportunities they see from their vantage point. When teams of forward-thinking medical professionals tackle the fundamental problems of healthcare together, they make larger strides in improving the patient experience.
  3. Educate patients on how to better navigate the healthcare system.
     “Nurses have an incredible viewpoint on quality,” Makary says. They can help educate patients and their families about where and how to seek these important details. Quality information is also more widely available online than ever and an increasing number of facilities offer set pricing for common elective procedures. “Many of the heroes I’ve met in my research are nurses who have basically said ‘wait a minute, why are we doing it this way, and can we do it better,’” he says. 


  1. Kaiser Family Foundation/New York Times. (2016) The Kaiser Family Foundation/New York Times Medical Bills Survey. Retrieved from The Burden of Medical Debt - Results from the Kaiser Family Foundation-New York Times Medical Bills Survey - Topline (

Global Surgical Conference & Expo

Learn more about what you can do to help improve the healthcare system from Makary. Join him for the closing general session at Global Surgical Conference & Expo in Orlando, FL, August 7-10, 2021. 

The 2nd edition of Makary’s book, “The Price We Pay: What Broke American Healthcare – and How to Fix It,” will be available in June.

Early-Bird Expo