Hey, here’s something that’s not even remotely shocking: The current (read: non-reformed) health care system wastes an astronomical amount of your money. However, the exact amount that they waste will still probably surprise you. According to a report by the Institue of Medicine, out of every health care dollar spent in 2009, 30 cents were wasted. That’s about $750 billion. In one year. But, the panel who put the report together say, there’s hope.
Where does all that waste come from? Apparently, just about every facet of the system. From the press release:
The ways that health care providers currently train, practice, and learn new information cannot keep pace with the flood of research discoveries and technological advances, the report says. How health care organizations approach care delivery and how providers are paid for their services also often lead to inefficiencies and lower effectiveness and may hinder improvement.
If response time, transparency, communication, and technology were all streamlined, the report notes, the amount of money saved provide health insurance to about 150 million uninsured Americans.
A greater level of efficiency would also improve the quality of care for those who are paying for it. The study attributed at least 75,000 deaths in the United States in 2005 to inefficient care.
The solution, the IOM recommends, isn’t tiny, incremental little cuts. It’s sweeping reform that changes the way business is done in the health care system. And that means a greater level of patient inclusion and education, better communication between health care providers, and the flexibility to change when things aren’t working.
Achieving higher quality care at lower cost will require an across-the-board commitment to transform the U.S. health system into a “learning” system that continuously improves by systematically capturing and broadly disseminating lessons from every care experience and new research discovery. It will necessitate embracing new technologies…engaging patients and their families as partners, and establishing greater teamwork and transparency within health care organizations.
Unfortunately, change within the health care system has become a hot button issue for politicians. No one wants to receive less or worse care than they’re already getting. Though, with a system this problematic and stagnate, it’s difficult to see how that would be possible.
The IOM’s report is important, particularly in an election year. The health care system’s inefficiencies and lack of access to lower earners is a huge issue for both campaigns. But what that leads to is a lack of clear, factual information.
Starkly opposing views, attacks, and personal and financial agendas are getting in the way of an actual debate about what is best, both economically and practically for health care consumers and providers. As a result, the two sides of the aisle are at loggerheads. Scare tactics, rather than solutions, are leading the conversation. This report clears the table, and looks at numbers and quality of care.
And what it’s found is that the current system is broken. But fortunately, it can be fixed with greater transparency, more emphasis on consumer education, and more incentives for providers to ensure higher quality care. Flexibility and a desire to change–without fear-mongering–is required to achieve those goals.
Achieving higher quality care at lower cost will require fundamental commitments to the incentives, culture, and leadership that foster continuous “learning”, as the lessons from research and each care experience are systematically captured, assessed, and translated into reliable care.
There are solutions to this problem–but bickering and politicking aren’t going to find them.
Images via the IOM, who provided this sweet infographic. You can see the whole thing here.