The ability to provide affordable and high-quality healthcare services has been an increasingly difficult challenge for most states across the globe. Due to the complexities of the healthcare industry, the relevant authorities have decided to investigate and interpret the use, financing, organization, delivery, accessibility, quality, costs and outcomes of healthcare services as the key forming them on the crucial issues related to the field. One of the most researched items in the healthcare industry has been the use of technology and how the technological change has impacted the field in terms of cost, accuracy, and quality of healthcare services (Thimbleby, 2013). Based on a review of recent pieces of literature, this paper discusses how the technological changes have impacted the field of healthcare services, both positively and negatively. It is indeed notable that most of the healthcare facilities are currently shifting from the old traditional way of manual medication to the more advanced technological methods in offering healthcare services. As is revealed by most researchers, technology is currently used in the field of healthcare in diagnosis, prescriptions, patient progress monitoring, and record keeping, among others (Payne et al., 2013). More importantly, the paper focuses more on how the advancement of technology in the healthcare system has impacted the system in terms of cost of medical spending.
Most of the proponents of the use of technology in health care argue that it improves various aspects of the system including increased accuracy, minimal errors, and improved quality of care. According to Asian Healthcare Management System (2018), the global use of computer technologies, for instance, began as early as the 1950s when computer scientists Gustav Wegner established the first professional organization of health informatics in Germany. The organization was concerned with the methods, devices, and resources necessary for the optimization of acquisition, storage, retrieval, and use of information in health and biomedicine (Asian Healthcare Management System, 2018). Using various tools such as information and communication systems, formal medical technologies, clinical guidelines, and computers, the health informatics would be applied to multiple areas such as biomedical research, occupational therapy, public health, pharmacy, dentistry, clinical care, and nursing. Since the establishment of health informatics in Germany, informatics training programs have since been started in many other countries including The Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Germany in as early as the 1960s. The establishment of the programs would then lead to the development of high-quality health informatics research units, infrastructure and education by most of the developed economies such as the U.S.A and the European Union (Asian Healthcare Management System, 2018). Evidently, this shows how health informatics, a product of technology in the healthcare industry, has been of value over the recent past.
Since its establishment, the impact of medical technology on growth in health care spending has long been a subject of vital interest, particularly in the context of long-term projections of health spending (Smith, Heffler and Freeland, 2000). In their analysis of the foundations of existing macroeconomics residual-based estimates, Sheila Smith, Stephen Heffler and Mark Freeland (2000) confirmed the technological change to be the dominant factor underlying the consistent increase in the health care share GDP. In their finding, the authors reveal that technological change accounts for a probable range of 38-62% of the total growth in real per capita income. Based on the midpoint of this range, it is arguable that in the absence of technological change, increase in actual per capita spending between the years 1940 and 1998 would have averaged about 2.5% annually, only slightly higher than growth in real per capita GDP (near 2.0%) (Smith, Heffler and Freeland, 2000). For instance, in the United States, out of the many factors that contribute to the country's high health care spending growth, one element, technology, is consistently a leading cause for years (The Incidental Economist, 2018). It is then evident that technology as a factor contributes to the growth of healthcare across the globe.
It is undeniable that healthcare technology has indeed contributed profoundly to the rising survival rates, for instance in the United States. However, the benefits have always been at a cost with various reports indicating that the health care spending relative to GDP has always grown more rapidly than in other countries. In their article, Amitabh Chandra and Jonathan Skinner (2012) divide healthcare technology into three categories: "Home Run" technologies; potentially cost-effective technologies with various benefits; and technologies with modest or uncertain effectiveness. The first category, "home run" technologies, comprises of the healthcare technologies that are considered cost-effective to almost every individual who would need them or could benefit from them. Such technologies, according to the authors, play a circumscribed role in spending growth in that they are only offered to those individuals who are tremendously in need or benefit from them. Such technologies would include among them: testicular cancer treatment; antiretroviral drugs for HIV patients; surfactants to treat neonatal acute respiratory distress for newborns; antibiotics; cleansing wounds; surgical or exam gloves; and hand washing (Chandra and Skinner, 2012). The authors note that there is little risk of inappropriate expansion of use to the individuals who would derive relatively few benefits from the category.
The second category consisting of potentially cost-effective technologies with various benefits represents those treatments that are cost-effective for some patients and low beneficial to others who still may seek or receive them. Technologies falling into this category include: prostate cancer screening and treatment; imaging technologies; cesarean sections; antidepressants; and angioplasty (Chandra and Skinner, 2012). The authors note that these technologies that fall into this category can become overused relative to their cost in the presence of third-party payment. The final category, technologies with modes or uncertain effectiveness, comprise of those treatments for whose cost-effectiveness is unknown to be low for any individual. Examples of technologies that fall in this category include referrals for specialists; ICU days for the chronically ill individuals; frequent office visits; and arthroscopic surgery for osteoarthritis of the knee (Chandra and Skinner, 2012). Evidently, technology drives up health care spending in various ways. In this case, one of the ways would be from the fact that technology in medical care has broadly proven efficient, thus leading to increased health spending as one might argue that it is worth the cost, for example, the technologies that fall in category one discussed above. Secondly, by being over-applied, technology leads to health care spending as it can be arguable that it may or may not always worth the cost, for example, some technology examples in category two and almost all cases in category three (Chandra and Skinner, 2012). Further works of research report a number of researchers arguing that despite the firm belief from the public that technology is destined to have a great effect in improving the quality, efficiency, and cost of treat, there is still the concern that it is as well likely to introduce errors in the system that might prove fatal in the long run (Powell, Nelson & Patterson, 2008). Therefore, for technological dream to be realized, the environment must first be prepared adequately to support the same. The preparation should focus on maintenance plan, a design that adheres to various human factors, and the interference with the patient confidentiality.
Combined with weak cost-containment measures, technological innovation plays a major factor in the ever-increasing health care costs, according to Thomas Bodenheimer (2005). Pieces of evidence from the article by Bodenheimer and other researchers show that improved health care technologies increase rather than reducing health care expenditures. However, it is undeniable that these technologies have indeed significantly improved the health care system. Most researchers associate high availability of such technologies as cardiac and neonatal intensive care units, angioplasty, coronary artery bypass graft, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, radiation oncology facilities, and positron emission tomography with higher per capita use and higher spending on the services. Notably, the spread of the use of advanced technologies in the healthcare system is relatively unrestrained in the United States where many of the technologies are used to a greater extent than in other countries (Ortiz and Clancy, 2003). Therefore, this explains why the United States incurs the highest health care costs among the developed economies worldwide. However, as Bodenheimer reports, such states with a higher degree of health care system integration rely heavily on expenditure controls and global budgets to control the medical costs. Despite the fact that diffusion of technology usually occurs more slowly in more tightly budgeted systems, the application of the innovated technologies in these systems tends to catch up over time (Bodenheimer, 2005).
Based on the above review on how technology has had various impacts in the healthcare industry, it is arguable that it is indeed a better addition to the patients' healthcare. For one, technology is no doubt one of the significant factors that have ensured the increase in survival rates in most of most of the countries around the globe. Treatment of some disease, especially the chronic types such as cancer, has desperately waited for a break-through, and with the establishment of technology, managing them well definitely be more comfortable. When evaluating the reviews, it is vital to put consider even the views of the technological critics; thus a middle ground is desirable (Gallos, Minou, Routsis & Mantas, 2017). The healthcare spending in most of the developed countries such as the US continues to increase at a pace significantly faster than most of the other sectors of the economy. Consequently, the speed has invited substantially greater interest and willingness to consider the causes of the rise to explore the options for reform (Wallner and Konski, 2008).
The constant growing and aging population that are in most cases characterized by inappropriate personal choices can be associated with some of the reasons for cost escalation. However, some of the ideas are apparently attributable to the increase in various medical services such as durable medical care equipment provider reimbursement, nursing and hospital home care, and cost of drugs. Important to note is that such costs cannot be avoided if the services have to continue being offered to the required quality. According to some of the health economists, the rapid introduction of advanced technologies in the medical field has played a very significant role in ensuring that the quality of healthcare increases significantly (Wallner and Konski, 2008). In the current pharmaceutical market, reports indicate that the medical vendors understandably desire early market penetration of any new technology or device. However, Wallner and Konski (2008) believe that this can be accomplished even before the availability of some significant evidence of benefit.
In conclusion, implementation of advanced technology in health care system might have increased the cost of medical serv...
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