Russian doctors visit Oklahoma City surgery center

OKLAHOMA CITY - This week, the U.S Department of Commerce is bringing a group of foreigners to Oklahoma to take a closer look at an ambulatory surgery center that's been the focus of a lot of buzz in recent years.

Surgery Center of Oklahoma claims to be driving down prices for medical care in Oklahoma because of an nontraditional business model.

Surgery Center of Oklahoma posts all prices online.

The prices are guaranteed and all inclusive.

But, the facility is controversial, because patients must pay cash.

Patients often travel to Surgery Center of Oklahoma from around the country.

Occasionally, they come from other countries.

This week, the surgery center hosted a team of doctors from eight Eurasian countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

The physician delegation came to Surgery Center of Oklahoma this week on a research mission.

"I still am not sure how all of these Russian doctors found out about Surgery Center of Oklahoma, but they did," said co-founder Dr. Keith Smith.

Smith and Dr. Steven Lantier founded the surgery center based on a free-market approach to healthcare.

"People travel here from all over the world to take advantage of this pricing," Smith said.

Dr. Gulnora Razykova is the medical director of a facility in Tajikistan.

"It's a lot for us to learn and to study," she said. "We thought it might be a trick at first. But, when they told us how they calculated prices at all levels. No, it's really fair."

The healthcare professionals spent about half a day at Surgery Center of Oklahoma.

"They were very curious about our model and how it differs from what else is going on in the United States," Lantier said. "They were very knowledgeable about the whole topic."

Most said the model is a new approach for an area of the world where socialist medicine has been the norm.

"I must use this knowledge in my country, in my region, because I have a private clinic," said Anna Makovskaya, who is the CEO of a cardiovascular hospital in Russia.

Lantier and Smith both said the most interesting question came from a Russian physician, who asked if she could send Russian patients to Oklahoma for surgery.

"She asked 'Would you even give foreigners the same prices?' We said, 'Yes, we would. It's the same for everyone.' And, they looked shocked," Lantier said.

Surgery Center of Oklahoma does about 7,500 procedures a year in six operating rooms at the Oklahoma City facility.

Last year, the Surgery Center of Oklahoma began contracting with state workers.

Oklahoma public employees who have the Health Choice healthcare plan are eligible for surgery with zero out-of-pocket expenses.