Use of medical technolgy
As advances in medical technology continue to transform the provision of healthcare and lengthen and improve the quality of life, it's almost inconceivable to think about providing healthcare in today's society without it. But now, questions are being raised about the appropriate and equitable use of this technology and how best to control its contribution to rising healthcare expenditures.
Healthcare technologies, facilities, equipment, and provider specialties have changed over recent decades. Until the mid-20th century, general hospitals and primary care physicians were major providers of healthcare, but now there are more physician specialists and sub-specialties, and more specialized healthcare facilities, including imaging centers, outpatient surgical centers, and dialysis centers.
Advances in medical technology have improved the ability to monitor, prevent, diagnose, control and cure a number of growing health conditions. In the last century, medical technologies aptly did their part to extend the life expectancy of the average American to nearly 80 years.
In the US, industry promotes the rapid adoption of new technology. Manufacturers spend heavily to pay for studies, fund medical meetings, advertise in medical journals and sign up influential physicians as well-paid consultants. This raises the possibility that money, rather than data, is driving the use of new technology, a news article on newswise states.
Cost of technology
In nearly every sector of the economy, technology drives costs down, but in healthcare, technology has the opposite effect; it doesn't cut costs, it raises them. In fact, medical technologies - from CT scans to stents to biologics - are a significant factor in the 10 percent annual growth rate of healthcare spending, a rate that's nearly triple the pace of inflation. (Overall, the US is now estimated to spend $2.7 trillion on healthcare in 2010.)
A recent Massachusetts state audit found that healthcare costs rose 20 percent from 2006 to 2008, largely because of new imaging technologies. The single largest increase was for digital mammography, a new - and expensive - way to screen for breast cancer, The Huffington Post reports.
As new types of medical equipment, procedures, and devices are created, there is the need for more personnel with specialized training for the equipment - in some cases, new professions are created.
In recent years, medical specialists such as radiation oncologists, medical geneticists, and surgical sub-specialists, as well as allied and support professions such as medical sonographers, radiation technologists, and laboratory technicians, have all been created to use specific equipment.
While this not only helps today's society in terms of healthcare, it's also providing jobs for America, but there could be considered a negative for the increased use of technology - the cost.
In general, it has been found that Americans - both providers and consumers - are more willing and eager to adopt and use new technologies than other countries.
The 33rd annual report on the Nation's Health, found that imaging, assisted reproductive technologies, prescription drugs and knee replacements have all seen a dramatic rise since the early 90's, said Amy Bernstein, the report's lead author, a health scientist for the National Center for Health Statistics.
"There are newer and better technologies all the time, and they're changing the face of health care and practice patterns," Bernstein said.
The use of high-tech diagnostic imaging in emergency rooms has quadrupled since the mid-1990's, according to the report.
According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, medical technology costs are the primary driver of healthcare inflation.
The Kaiser Family Foundation study concluded that the only measures that are likely to control healthcare inflation over the long term are either the delay or prevention of new medical technology. In other words, restricting new technology and rationing are the only two options that offer sustainable solutions. Virtually all other less objectionable strategies to controlhealthcare inflation, are likely to result in only "short term savings," according to the study.
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