DR. SMITH: Hello, Dr. Keith Smith with you – Surgery Center of Oklahoma. Thank you for joining us in this video blog series. This is part 2 of the cochlear implantation blog that I wanted everyone to hear about. So much so, that I did a blog that introduced this 2-part blog series. We heard from Dr. Wolfe and you can understand why Hearts for Hearing, a non-profit and charitable organization, is so successful from the articulate leadership of a man like that.
Now we’re going to hear from Dr. Stan Baker, a surgeon that I’ve known for 15 years. He’s a very skilled otologist and I’ve done many cochlear implant surgeries with him. And we’d like to hear from you now, Dr. Baker. Thank you for joining us.
DR. BAKER: My pleasure, Keith. Thanks for asking. I’m asked oftentimes in the clinic by patients and families, ‘what is a cochlear implant?’ and a lot of people start off thinking it’s a hearing aid. And in an extended sort of way, it is, but in a bigger way it’s an electronic bypass for an ear that doesn’t work anymore. The damage that causes most cases of hearing loss, from children to the elderly, leaves the hearing nerve intact and working fine, but lacking a sufficient auditory signal that the ear is not able to make anymore. So the cochlear implant simply bypasses the ear and uses the cochlea as a convenient location to put in an electronic device, the output from which is perceived by the hearing nerve as a relatively normal ear. The results are dramatic in properly selected patients and we have a long, strong tradition here in Oklahoma City of cochlear implant work dating back to Dr. Jack Hough who founded the Hough Institute here and was one of the co-investigators in children’s cochlear implants where Dr. Wolfe’s Hearts for Hearing group makes such a dramatic impact.
Worldwide, we’ve seen the numbers who have cochlear implants, up to 400,000 have been done; it’s become a standard of care. There’s an uptick in recent months to years, maybe because of insurance issues where more patients are having difficulty getting access to cochlear implant technology, and we’ve been fortunate here at the Surgery Center to be able to solve that problem by getting the price down to an amazingly low level, at least for a historical basis. We did a child paid for by a benevolent organization earlier this year and it was under $32,000 for the surgeon, the facility, the anesthesiologist and the device, which is usually the big price. So that’s exciting to be able to do that.
DR. SMITH: Are you saying that 2-3 cochlear implants could be done at the for-profit Surgery Center of Oklahoma that could be could be done at a not-for-profit hospital?
DR. BAKER: That’s an interesting concept, Keith. I don’t have any misgivings about hospitals. They exist in kind of a different world economically and financially. I don’t understand it, but I’m glad some people do. It can be confusing and even frustrating for patients sometimes to be put off. And maybe that’s the reason some people are put off because of the stories they hear about relatively high prices. But it’s a crucial technology and we’re excited to be able to offer it to people who need it.
We’re very dependent on Dr. Wolfe and his group at Hearts for Hearing for helping us with clinical decision-making about who is an appropriate cochlear implant patient and who would benefit from other approaches. It’s a nice coming together of clinical resources and technology and surgery facilities that we have here. I’m very pleased with it and I appreciate your part.
DR. SMITH: Well thank you, Dr. Baker. Dr. Wolfe, thank you for sticking around for Part 2. Thank you all for joining us. You can see why I’m so excited about this technology and because the prices of these procedures are typically so high, this is an area where the Surgery Center of Oklahoma truly is making a difference with dedicated people like Dr. Wolfe and Dr. Baker and their teams. Thank you again for joining us. We will see you next time.