When Will Health Care Enter the 21st Century?

27 Jul

During the often heated debate over health care reform, one of the frequent refrains from opponents was that “America has the best health care in the world!”–a kind of patriotic view that the United States is the best at everything despite much evidence to the contrary. But the point is that we pride ourselves on having the most technologically advanced, highest quality health care. If it’s the latest and greatest, we want it here. And yet, it seems, health care is lagging far behind a number of other industries when it comes to integrating modern technology into things.

Sure, a new type of diagnostic equipment is modern technology, but what about some less sophisticated, but potentially more relevant applications of technology? Ronald Dixon, an internist at Mass General Hospital who directs their Virtual Practice Project, has this to say in a recent Health Affairs article:

“Industries such as banking, travel, and retail have used technology to transform their businesses during the past decade. Bank customers can go online to access and act on current information about their accounts at any time. Travelers can book airline reservations and print boarding passes in an instant. Customers can purchase and track items across the globe from thousands of online retailers. Health care is the only major industry resisting the adoption of the ubiquitous technologies we use today in other sectors of the economy.”

The question becomes: Why is health care holding out? Why don’t we demand more? How can we consider our current system to be the best when we can so readily envision something far superior? I don’t have all the answers for you–though Dr. Dixon offers some in his article–but I think that this is something to ponder.


Posted by on July 27, 2010 in Uncategorized


3 responses to “When Will Health Care Enter the 21st Century?

  1. Anonymous

    July 27, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Name a country that has better health care than the US. Sure there's room for improvement. How did these other industries adopt new technologies? In general, through competition. I'm not sure how you can compete in the health care system when most communities have limited alternatives. (I'm not talking about health insurance.)

  2. D. Brad Wright

    July 27, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Um, you'd better grab a Twix….FranceGermanyCanadaEnglandJapanSwedenSpainItalyNorwayNetherlandsIrelandSwitzerlandBelgiumetc. etc.We are NOT the best across the board. There are some things we do quite well. There are other things we do miserably.Your point about competition is valid to an extent — but these technologies have already been developed and are just not being applied in health care. It's a bit like the fact that we've discovered the cure for Malaria and yet it kills 1 million people each year. Why not use what we have developed?

  3. Jan Baer

    July 27, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    In free market business, consumers establish benchmarks by their willingness to pay certain prices for certain products, whereas in health care a huge segment of the population has been oblivious to costs and outcomes because of insurance. There has never been a clear way to evaluate procedures' efficacy per dollar; the patient is often obstructed from learniing the facts, and too often the patient doesn't even show a strong desire to learn them because he isn't financially responsible for the costs.Thus the only cost controls are used by insurers who make their profits by paying the least for the most effective means available, and by excluding/denying coverage where possible.If, instead, costs were established by a single payer – well-informed about cost/efficacy, perhaps the health care system could offer better outcomes per dollar.But that would be "Rationing," wouldn't it?I jest.


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