By Gary S. Kaplan, M.D., FACP, FACMPE, FACPE, chairman and CEO of Virginia Mason Health System in Seattle
The cost of healthcare remains a central theme no matter where you go in our nation, and rightly so. The annual U.S. healthcare expenditure tops nearly $3 trillion, representing approximately 18 percent of the gross domestic product. That equals about $1 out of every $5 spent.
If we trimmed the cost of healthcare by one-third--which is the amount attributed to waste and inefficiency--imagine how much money we could invest in public education, business development and infrastructure in our communities.
Higher cost is not a proxy for higher quality. The United States is below average for life expectancy and infant mortality. The World Health Organization ranks our country 37th out of 191 national health systems when evaluating investment in medical care and the correlation to improved health, reduced health disparities and protection from impoverishment due to medical expenses.
If the excessively high costs of healthcare in the United States are not buying us quality, then why are costs so high?