The Great Cycle of Health Care Innovation

Ezra Klein reports on some new gadgets to measure and report biomarkers less invasively and more efficiently. He ends with some questions.

Will biometric devices in constant communication with the cloud make medicine more or less expensive? […] Will the advances in preventive technology make medicine so effective that we’re glad to devote 40 percent of gross domestic product to it? Who knows?

Well, if prior patterns of diffusion of medical technology are any guide, we will be conflicted about what the future holds. We will find that these new technologies can and sometimes do deliver awesome advancements that make lives longer and better. Rejoice! We will also find that these new technologies will be over-applied, generating tremendous waste. Despair! Finally, we will find that some technology is harmful, but it will take us decades to rid the system of its use. Anguish!

Our system is very good at jumping at and finding ways to fund new technology. Our system is very bad at using new technology where and only where it is warranted. And our system is almost criminal in the continued use of technology when it has proven to be harming patients.

Of course we could use technology more wisely, but that will take a change in the system we haven’t seen yet. The real question is, will that change ever happen? Who knows?


[Originally posted from The Incidental Economist]

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Austin Frakt

Austin Frakt is a health economist and an assistant professor at Boston University's School of Medicine and School of Public Health. He blogs at The Incidental Economist.