Switching to the minimally invasive forms of some common surgeries could have saved an estimated $14 billion in healthcare spending in 2009, researchers said.

The estimated savings are a combination of lower medical costs and reduced workplace absenteeism, according to Andrew Epstein, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

The finding is based on analysis of the effect of six minimally invasive procedures on costs and absenteeism among workers with employer-sponsored health plans, Epstein and colleagues reported online in JAMA Surgery.

While minimally invasive procedures are seen as a better surgical option for many patients, their impact on medical costs and worker productivity has not been widely studied.

"We saw a gap in discussions of what value really means in medical care," Epstein said in a statement.

"Clinical outcomes are obviously important, but they shouldn't be the sole measure of potential benefit," he said. "Recovery times also matter."

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