The US leads the world in advancing medical innovation through ground-breaking research that leads to new medical tests, technologies, treatments and devices. Each new advance has the potential to change or save lives – often in ways that are absolutely priceless to patients and their families. Yet, unfortunately, new medical innovations aren’t without their costs and due in part to the continuous flow of innovations we “purchase,” the US now spends over $8,000 per person on healthcare each year – around twice as much as most other developed countries (see figure).
Total Healthcare Spending Per Capita from 1980 to 2010
For decades, our “fee-for-service” reimbursement model has enabled well-insured Americans to receive the highest-quality innovations available, and over time many have come to expect the “latest and greatest,” without having to consider whether the marginal cost is justified. At the same time, at a systemic level, we aren’t getting what we pay for – the US ranks 27th in life expectancy, 31st in infant mortality and an embarrassing first-place in obesity.
With healthcare spending quickly approaching 20% of GDP and a transformation of our payment models on the horizon, every member of the complex healthcare ecosystem will need to re-examine the role that medical innovation can and should play in building the healthcare system of the future. Now is the time to step back and consider how we can make more medical innovations available, more affordably, and more quickly to more people.