How do we move from cost-increasing to cost-reducing technology?

In computing, Moore's Law says costs fall by half every two years as capability improves, yet in healthcare, technology sends bills soaring.

In 25 years, healthcare could account for a third of the economy and consume 30 percent of the federal budget, according to a series of stories introduced in Technology Review.

"Essentially, it's how do we move from cost-increasing to cost-reducing technology? That is the challenge of the 21st century," Jonathan Gruber, an economist at MIT who leads a heathcare group at the National Bureau of Economic Research, says in the article.

The problem, basically, is lack of incentives to use cost-effective medicine, the article states. Even the new federal research institute established to find the most effective treatments isn't focused on cost, it says.

The article points to cardiologist Eric Topol's push to incorporate digital gadgets into healthcare as a possible way to cut costs. Topol, a professor of genomics at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego and author of "The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care," told FierceHealthIT the public will be key to pressing for change.

"We need to take initiative and ask our physicians why they're using old tools or sending us for outdated tests," he said.

John Backus, a partner at New Atlantic Ventures, believes the growing cash market for medical services will drive greater cost-effectiveness.

Despite the many ideas about driving costs down, however, it will take years for real evidence to emerge as to their effectiveness.

A recent study published in Journal of the American Medical Association found that the United States spends the most per capita on healthcare across all countries but ranks last among Britain, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand for improving healthcare outcomes.

In an editorial commemorating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, The Washington Post called the rise in healthcare costs a civil rights issue.

"Getting serious about justice means getting serious about healthcare costs," the Post editorial states.

Sally Pipes, president of the San Francisco-based Pacific Research Institute, however, recently wrote that the vast improvements in quality of life can be worth the costs for patients and the overall economy as well.

To learn more:
- read the Technology Review post