Is tech to blame for rising healthcare costs?

Technology has changed healthcare ... but not in a good way,  IT writer Mark Gibbs says in a recent Forbes commentary.

Technology enables more accurate patient care and allows providers to share data with one another--making for better coordination and bolstering medical research.

But Gibbs contends that it also has led to an astronomical increase in costs, making care for some simply unaffordable.

"One of the results of medicine's technology-driven cost inflation is the huge increase in health insurance premiums as I'm sure you know well from personal experience,"  Gibbs writes. "Not surprisingly, as a consequence of these vastly increased medical costs, many people go bankrupt when they get sick."

Gibbs supports his claim by citing an American Journal of Medicine study from 2009 that found roughly 62 percent of all bankruptcies in 2007 were due to medical issues, up nearly 50 percent from 2001.

As a result, Gibbs says, Americans are increasingly "deferring medical procedures, not buying prescribed medications or taking lower doses to stretch out costs or simply foregoing health insurance altogether."

Recent comments by leaders in the industry, however, indirectly challenge Gibbs' assertions. For instance, in an interview with California's KQED Public Radio, Robert Rowley--medical director of electronic health record vendor Practice Fusion--says that technology can better arm patients for taking on ailments.

Additionally, Intel Chief Healthcare Strategist Eric Dishman--in an interview with Forbes--talks about health technology's role in improving care, in particular for seniors.

"Necessity is breeding innovation," Dishman says. "We put a lot of people in [nursing homes], but with a little help, they can stay in their homes. ... If they choose to age in their homes, we have the technology, but it needs to be configured the right way. The business model is changing, and accountable care organizations will have an impact."

To learn more:
- read Gibbs' commentary
- here's this KQED article
- check out the Forbes interview with Dishman

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