Are High-Tech Medical Tests and Treatments Always Worth It?
Experts say that spending on new health technology—not just fancy machines but also drugs, devices, and procedures—makes up as much as two thirds of the more than 6 percent annual increase in healthcare costs (this year’s costs: $2.5 trillion). It’s one of the key reasons why U.S. healthcare is so expensive, says one expert. U.S. News’s Katherine Hobson describes how high-tech and expensive medical tools may be overused. Several forces are driving the excess use of high-tech medicine, she writes. The most commonly cited is so-called “technology creep.” First a device gets approved for a high-risk population for which it provides a proven benefit. But its use then expands to lower-risk groups, changing the calculus of clinical and financial risk and reward, Hobson writes. Technology creep is at work in imaging, where the number of CT and MRI scans charged to Medicare increased more than 15 percent annually between 2000 and 2004. The odd economics of health also abet the spread of techno