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A Driver of Health Care Costs: Technology??

Last week, joined by Dr. Peter Groeneveld, we took a deeper look into technology’s role in the health care sector. What we saw may actually have been counter-intuitive and perhaps counter to what we’ve heard and continue to hear in the media these past few years as reform of the health care system has been debated.

Technology, it seems, may be a driver behind the increasing cost of delivering health care both here and globally. We took a listener poll (copied below also) on this issue on our Facebook fan page.

To see why, we first need to think of “technology” as both Medical Technology and Information Technology.

Information technology is easier to define since we’ve been talking about it for at least two years now. It includes the use of electronic health records (EHR) for all patients, systems to allow the sharing of records between doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and other health care providers as well as insurance companies. Such technologies can and should result in a decrease in operating costs through increased efficiencies (e.g., less paperwork). It may also make test results more available, decreasing & reducing costs associated with unnecessarily repeating such testing. (However, there is no evidence of this as yet as such systems, called Health Information Exchanges (HIE), are far from fully deployed across the country.)

Medial technology is that technology which facilitates new drug research (e.g., synthesis processes in labs, computer simulations), development of medical testing equipment (e.g., MRI scanners), the discovery of new medical treatments (e.g., artificial limbs). This is a widely disparate applications, certainly. In short, its the use of science and technology to improve medical care itself.

As humans, as Dr. Groeneveld mentioned on the episode, we want the available options for our medical care to always improve. As Dr. Groeneveld said, no one wants their health care limited to the options available in 1960 – even under the knowledge that those options are far less expensive then the options available, a relatively short 50 years later.

So, it appears that we are asking the cost reductions achieved through information technology (IT) to balance the natural growth in medical technology expenditure. Is that likely?

Time will tell, and we’ll certainly have Dr. Groenevelt on again on future Health IT episodes to look into this further.


May 2, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Dr. Groeneveld, in his dual role as an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Staff Physician at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center has the opportunity to see the health care system as a practicing doctor and research the economics being the industry.

    Comment by techtodayradio | May 2, 2011 | Reply

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