(Kauffman Foundation: Kansas City, MO) -- Cost trends in U.S. health care consistently increase at about 2.5 percentage points faster than the general rate of inflation—clearly an unsustainable rate. To address what it called "America’s most urgent public policy problem," the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation released a report that focuses on improving the cost-benefit balance in U.S. health care through open access to medical data.
The report, “Valuing Health Care: Improving Productivity and Quality,” is based on the recommendations of 31 experts from related fields whom the Kauffman Foundation convened to reframe thinking around the question, “How can the productivity and value of American health care be increased, in both the short-term and long-term?”
While acknowledging that there’s no shortage of reports and recommendations for health care reform, the task force took a unique approach to tackling health care value and productivity challenges.
“Rather than look for a ‘one shot fix’ solution, the task force focused on incremental reforms that cumulatively can both reduce costs and enhance the value of health care delivered to Americans, regardless of whether and how the Affordable Care Act is implemented,” says Robert Litan, vice president of research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation and a task force co-organizer. “The underlying thread to the recommendations is leveraging big medical data.”
“Using proper safeguards, we need to open the information that is locked in medical offices, hospitals, and the files of pharmaceutical and insurance companies," says John Wilbanks, Kauffman senior fellow and an author of the report. “For example, combining larger data sets on drug response with genomic data on patients could steer therapies to the people they are most likely to help. This could substantially reduce the need for trial-and-error medicine, with all its discomforts, high costs, and sometimes tragically wrong guesses.”
Unleash the power of information by breaking down silos and encouraging data sharing between research centers, medical offices, pharmaceutical companies, insurance firms, and others. And incentivize a new corps of data entrepreneurs to collect and analyze existing medical data to discover and then disseminate new therapies.
Fund more translational, cross-cutting research, with larger average grants made available to larger teams with participants from multiple institutions, and require collaboration across research institutions.
Reform medical malpractice systems to streamline new drug approvals and remove counterproductive restrictions on health insurance premiums.
Empower patients by, among other means, providing unbiased information on treatment options’ benefits and drawbacks, and help them make choices about the relevant lifestyle implications and risk-reward tradeoffs.
Further, the task force contends, health care delivery deserves its own national research program, one focused on comparative efficiency research. More efficiency (with acceptable quality guidelines) leads to profitability, and corrects the easy practice of simply passing costs down the health care stream.
The report, “Valuing Health Care: Improving Productivity and Quality,” is available at http://www.kauffman.org/uploadedfiles/valuing_health_care.pdf.