Reducing costs while improving quality of healthcare

Reducing costs while improving quality of healthcare

Everyone wants to expand medical technology because of the positive results that it brought to us. However, healthcare costs continue to grow rapidly. Although people love the innovation it brought to public, they didn’t like the expensive bills they pay in hospitals and clinics. Money isn’t something that we could pick up on streets. Everyone is working hard just to earn money for their families. This is why it is important for them to know if their money is utilized properly. Is their money efficiently and wisely spent? They need to be informed about the factors to why healthcare is expensive. Knowing that healthcare costs escalate quickly, a policy or a procedure should be implemented to decrease costs without affecting our standard of living.

According to Corinna Sorenson, professor at London school of economics, medical technology is the main cost in healthcare field but theres more than that in the picture. There are many factors that contributes to its soaring expenses. One factor is the rising prices of hospital services which added to the increasing expenditures. Hospitals charge people the amount of service they conducted to them. However, do they really need the procedures and examination being performed? Sometimes, healthcare providers tend to conduct unnecessary tests and procedures that are not needed by the patients. Examples of this include when physicians image the spinal cord of patients with back pain in their early six weeks even without the alert signs. Also, some doctors prescribed antibiotics very early even in mild conditions of the patients. These are the other reasons of why expenses are inflating so we should not think that only medical technology fosters the high expenditures.

Correspondingly, Nancy Marioka-Douglas of the NPA and Stanford University Medical School presented some recommendations pertaining to examples introduced by Sorenson. Physicians should not image the lumbar spine region of patients with lower back pain in the first six weeks unless certain red flags are present. Also, antibiotics should not be prescribed for mild to moderate sinusitis unless symptoms persist more than seven days or worsen after initial improvement. Following these suggestions in healthcare field could save $6.76 billion annually. She stressed that “her list was only the beginning and that many other unnecessary and harmful treatments should be eliminated, in primary care and in other specialties”. Her statement confirm the fact that medical staff tend to perform unnecessary medical procedures.

While recognizing the presence of wastes, Skinner, Staiger, and Fisher (2006) presented the many possible sources of spending inefficiencies. One of the source is the lack of care coordination which contributes to duplicate care and over treatment, a source of waste exacerbated by payment systems that compensate physicians based on the number of services provided. Overuse of expensive medical technologies is particularly costly, and some research suggests that a significant portion of coronary artery bypass graft surgery, angioplasty, hysterectomy, cataract surgery, and angiography is of questionable or low medical value (Goldman and McGlynn 2005). Also, when providers fail to adopt the widely recognized best medical practices also contributes to waste. These failures include lack of adherence to established preventive care practices and patient safety systems. For example, the use of beta blockers in the treatment of acute myocardial infarction (Skinner and Staiger 2005, 2009). If providers fail to follow these practices, it will result in worse clinical outcomes, higher readmissions and contributes to wasteful spending.

In response, another person verified that medical technology is not the only reason of escalating healthcare costs but also the people that control it. According to Daniel Callahan, senior lecturer of Harvard medical school, “Health care economists estimate that 40–50% of annual cost increases can be traced to new technologies or the intensified use of old ones”. This only means that over using devices in the medical setting can cause huge financial growth in health care. Also, the repeating medical processes increases the costs as well. And these action are controlled and performed by the people who works in medical field. Callahan claims that how we use and control technology plays a big part in elevating the expenditures. On top of that, he stated that “The control of technology is the most important factor in bringing costs down.” If healthcare providers know how to use it right and properly, we will prevent the rapid increase of healthcare costs.

In contrast, Peter Neumann, Doctor of Science and Milton Weinstein, Doctor of Philosophy exposes the downside of medical technology leading to their position of limiting its expansion. They think that medical technology is a big contributor of healthcare costs. Neumann and Weinstein stated some underlying facts that people are not aware of. First, “new technologies on average improve quality of medical care but that is not true in every technology only on average”. Second, “many technologies are redundant and do not improve health outcomes”. Lastly, “new technologies do, on balance, add healthcare costs”. They added that american society may have reached the point at which is not possible to provide the best available healthcare to americans regardless of costs. That being said, why should we continue to implement technology if some of it does not improve our health but only adds up to the rising expenditures. They further argue that it is not easy to recognize which technology is effective and ineffective at the time they are introduced. Although they are being tested, we cannot control what will happen and often times some technologies are less beneficial in the medical setting. This only paves way to the number of disadvantages including the exorbitant costs of medical technology.

In all, I agree that medical technology also makes healthcare expensive. However, I learned that it is not only the technology that makes it costly but also the people that use and handle it. David Cutler, an economist, expound that the money we use in medical technology is worth it. It is not wasted as long as we know how to handle it right. Also, through expanding medical technology, we are increasing life expectancy of human which can be attributed to the advances in healthcare. As Cutler asserts, “it does not necessarily follow that technology change is therefore bad … costs of technology need to be compared with benefits before welfare statements can be made”. It is very obvious that the benefits of medical technology is greater than the burden that its costs may bring. I believe we are attaining good value for money from the technologies developed.

As a student with interest in medical careers, I am strongly concern on the issue regarding the costs and effectiveness of medical technology. I know that our country is suffering from the burden of exorbitant costs in healthcare. The healthcare providers and their action are also responsible to the financial growth. Who would wanna pay expensive bills at the hospital? Nobody would do. This is why an action should be made. I strongly believe that healthcare providers can contribute a big change. They can minimize problems in medical setting and decrease the high expenditures. It is hard to make an action because we are not directly the stakeholders that make big decisions to control the growth of its costs. But I do think that educating medical staff and providing them sufficient training will make a big change. When they know exactly what to do and they know how to properly use it right, then minimal medical procedures will be done and lesser problem in the medical field will occur. By training and educating them, they will be more active and will be more familiarized with the devices. Sometimes medical staff also forget what they have learned in medical school so it is important that they should be trained again. There is nothing wrong with reminding them on how to use it properly. Education and training is a best solution that medical staff should try in order minimize the healthcare costs.

This training and education are for the NEW technologies introduced to public that many providers are not familiar with. I believe that the training should be done every six months for every medical staff engage in medical processes. The hospitals and medical group are the one that will initiate this policy. They are also the one that will pay for it since these medical staff work for their company. They can do many ways to pay for the finances such as doing fundraising and cutting unnecessary spending to hold money for training. The aging workforce should be trained because they might forget some important things about medical processes that they have learned during residency. Also, our old medical staff should be engage as well for they might haven’t encounter new devices that has just been developed recently. Also, I want this to be considered as a requirement for the incoming staff. As new applicants apply to medical career, they should have passed the evaluation and training of new medical technologies. This way we are guaranteed that our medical staff will promote less problems in medical setting and avoid wasteful spending in order to reduce the expenses. We can’t stop the continuous implementation of technology because society needs it but we can lower its costs step by step and we should start with the people who use it.

Callahan, D. (2008, January 1). Healthcare Costs and Medical Technology. Retrieved April 20, 2015, from http://www.thehastingscenter.org/Publications/BriefingBook/Detail.aspx?id=2178

Cutler, D., & McClelllan, M. (2001, January 1). Is Technological Change In Medicine Worth It? Retrieved April 20, 2015, from http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/20/5/11.full

Flemming, C. (2011, November 9). Reducing Health Care Costs While Improving Care. Retrieved May 8, 2015, from http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2011/11/09/reducing-health-care-costs-while-improving-care/

Mclellan, M., & Rivlin A. (2014, April 11). Improving Health While Reducing Cost Growth: What is Possible? Retrieved May 08, 2015 from http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/events/2014/04/11%20health%20care%20spending/improving_health_reducing_cost_growth_mcclellan_rivlin.pdf

Neumman P., & Weinstein M. (2011, March 28). The diffusion of new technology: costs and benefits to health care. Retrieved April 15, 2015, from https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=Etl-1y0_ryAC&oi=fnd&pg=PA21&dq=medical+technology+costs&ots=ZdsJ6TX9GK&sig=ydjC4TokWRsWwtrifDfyOYBkj68#v=onepage&q=medical%20technology%20costs&f=false

Sorenson, C. (2013, May 30). Medical technology as a key driver of rising health expenditure: disentangling the relationship. Retrieved April 15, 2015, from http://www.dovepress.com/medical-technology-as-a-key-driver-of-rising-health-expenditure-disent-peer-reviewed-article-CEOR

Skinnier J., Staiger D., & Fischer E. (2006). Reducing costs and improving the quality of healthcare. Retrieved May 08, 2015, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/erp2013/ERP2013_Chapter_5.pdf

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