Technology—not demographics or medical malpractice—is the key driver of health spending, accounting for an estimated half to two-thirds of spending growth. Other important drivers of health care spending include health status (particularly obesity) and low productivity gains in the health care sector.
The Wall Street Journal offered its take on health care technology in today’s paper, suggesting that healthcare technology has been an investment that soon may pay dividends:
IT security will eventually meet the expectations of the health-care industry, just as has happened in other sectors, like banking. And when it does, powerful IT networks crisscrossing the globe will change the way much of health care is delivered: Outsourcing and offshoring of medical and nonmedical services will increase, providing more efficient health care at the most cost-effective rates; systems integrations will allow more medical records to be transferred swiftly and securely; efforts to monitor the safety of medicines will gain global access to data; and professionals and patients will find authoritative and up-to-date information on every specialty online.
“[b]ecause activation levels are linked to important outcomes, such as seeking care, seeking information and health behaviors, and because it is a changeable attribute, it is a potentially important lever for change. * * * Because activation is changeable and provider support appears to be a factor, incentivizing or holding health care delivery systems and providers accountable for patient gains in activation is a possible policy direction.”
In this regard, it’s worth noting a Kaiser Family Foundation poll surprisingly finding that
three in 10 (30%) Americans say they have seen health care quality comparisons of health insurance plans, hospitals, or doctors in the past year. Not all people make health care choices or decisions in a given year that would call for the use of quality information, but this is a downward trend from surveys in 2006 (36%) and 2004 (35%) and roughly equivalent to the level in 2000 (27%). Further, just one in seven (14%) Americans report that they “saw” and “used” comparative health quality information for health insurance plans, hospitals, or doctors in the past year, again down from roughly one in five in both 2006 (20%) and 2004 (19%).