Technology Causing Increased Hospital Costs

From Sciencedaily 10/13 Technology, Not Uninsured Patients, Driving Hospital Costs

Technology, not uninsured patients, likely explains the steep rise in the cost of hospital care in Texas in recent years, according to Vivian Ho, the chair in health economics at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, a professor of economics at Rice and a professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Her findings were reported in an article appearing in the Oct. 1 (2013) online edition of the journal Healthcare Management, Practice and Innovation.

Ho emphasized her findings contradict a public perception that the rising numbers of uninsured persons explains the increase in prices that hospitals charge for treating privately insured patients. "This misconception has distracted policymakers and workers in the health care sector from identifying effective strategies for cost control," she said. But while Ho said her study can explain more than half of the observed price increase with hospital, patient and market characteristics, a sizable portion remains unexplained.

In the study, Ho used data on revenues by payer type to identify the factors for rising hospital costs in Texas between 2000 and 2007. The study comes against the backdrop of a substantial rise in health care expenditures in the United States that has been accompanied by rapid increases in fees that hospitals receive for treating privately-insured patients.

"We discovered that approximately two-thirds of the increase in prices can be explained by increases in the costs of care, which may reflect the growth and use of more advanced technology," Ho said. "Part of this cost increase could also be attributable to sicker patient populations, as patients with less severe conditions are increasingly treated in freestanding facilities. We found no firm evidence that hospitals are raising prices in response to lower reimbursement from Medicare, Medicaid or uninsured and self-pay patients."

She said the results of this study suggest more attention should be paid to understanding the cost drivers of hospital care. "If technology growth is behind the cost increases, then greater efforts should be devoted to determining which technologies are cost-effective," Ho said. "Greater thought could also be devoted to designing reimbursement mechanisms that discourage inefficient use of new technologies."



U.S. Addicted To Medical Radiation

from NaturalNews.com Americans Receive More Medical Radiation Than Anyone Else In The World by David Gutierrez (10/10)

People in the United States receive more medical radiation than residents of any other country, a fact that is leading increasing numbers of health professionals to call for changes in the way that many medical tests are performed.

One such doctor is radiologist Steven Birnbaum, who became concerned about the risks of over-radiation when his daughter received more medical scans after a car accident than he thought necessary. Wondering how widespread the problem was, he directed his staff to call his attention to any patient under 40 who had five or more computed tomography (CT) scans, and any patient over 40 who had 10 or more. To his shock, his staff turned up 50 people in the next three years, including one young woman who received 31 abdominal scans.

The use of radiation imaging in the United States has skyrocketed in the past few decades. A recent Columbia University study estimated that 20 million adults and 1 million children are being exposed to unnecessary cancer risk from medical scans. A Duke University study found that the typical U.S. heart attack patient receives the equivalent of 850 chest X-rays in just the first few days after surgery, and that many of these tests are unnecessary.

Another study found that more than four million people are being exposed to more than 20 millisieverts of medical radiation per year, and that 2 percent of study participants received between 20 and 50. In contrast, natural "background" radiation from the sun and soil is only 2 millisieverts a year.

Patients concerned about their radiation exposure should always ask doctors if a radiation scan is necessary, whether radiation-free alternatives are available, if the scan has ever been performed on them before, how the dose will be adjusted for their sex and age, and if the doctor has a financial stake in the machines to be used. Radiologist Fred Mettler of the New Mexico Veterans Administration suggests asking for a copy of all tests performed. "You should have all of your stuff digitally on something," he said. "I keep mine on my laptop."

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Tanning & Natural Health News is a publication of Tan Plus /Essentials Of Life, Barclay Square, 350 Route 108, Somersworth, NH. This publication is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be presented as medical advice. Product statements made have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration.

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