JAMA Forum: Making Health Care More Productive

With a staggering amount of waste, as documented in the recent JAMA study, a key question is whether our health care system can produce the same or better outcomes for less money—in other words, can it become more productive or efficient? Until recently, the answer seemed to be “no.” But things may be changing.

That’s me on the JAMA Forum attempting to put an optimistic spin on the future of U.S. health care. The rest of the piece points to areas where we have good evidence or reasonable expectation of increasing productivity. But, I’d be first to point out that they won’t purge all or even most of the waste from the system. Indeed, the piece ends,

None of this means there isn’t waste in the health care system. The latest estimate suggests as much as 25% of spending in this area is wasteful. Even if the health care system is becoming more efficient in some ways, that doesn’t mean it’s as efficient as it could be or that we’re definitively on the road to driving out all the waste. History suggests that improving productivity in health care is extremely hard and extremely rare.

Go read the whole thing. (Background research for the piece was supported by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.)


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