Medical research worries some of the experts who will be helping 20 developed nations care for aging populations.
Health industry consultants at PricewaterhouseCoopers International Ltd., New York, report on that concern in a health finance system analysis based on a Web-based survey of 200 health executives in the 20 countries.
Most participants agreed that the aging of the population is the most pressing concern facing their own countries’ health care finance systems, and about 60% of the participating executives identified “implementation of technology” as a likely “attribute for improving efficiency” in health care, the consultants write.
But Jorg Blattmann, a German hospital executive, told the PricewaterhouseCoopers consultants that one increasingly popular payment method – “diagnosis related group” reimbursement, or paying for the bundle of products and services typically needed to treat a patient suffering from a particular diagnosis – can hold back the spread of new ideas.
“DRG-based reimbursement as it is used in Germany today is not supporting any further innovation within the medical field because really innovative procedures are not reimbursed through DRGs,” the executive told the PricewaterhouseCoopers consultants.
In the Netherlands, Hans Hopmans, “innovation manager” at a Dutch health insurer, said, “The role of technology doesn’t make me happy. … If you think about the technology regarding early detection of illness, then 95% of the population will be sick in 10 to 15 years.”
Technology that identifies potentially serious illness for it poses a clear-cut risk may not be what patients really want, or should want, Hopmans argued.
Health finance systems in many countries are experimenting with techniques for holding the cost of adopting new medical technology by comparing the effectiveness of new technologies, the consultants write.
In the United Kingdom, the consultants write, experts try to compare the effectiveness of new treatments by estimating the additional cost required to generate a “quality-adjusted life year.”
Although the QALY approach seems to make health care expenditures more efficient, it does not seem to reduce health care costs, the consultants write.
The consultants note that countries such as Finland, France and Germany are, like the United States, trying to increase health care efficiency by developing health information systems that can connect with one another.
In the United States, for example, Medicare wants to test the idea of paying up to $58,000 per doctor for small and midsize primary care practices to adopt electronic health record systems, the consultants write.