A study sponsored by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association found that the availability of new technologies drives up healthcare spending, and some technologies add millions of dollars per month to healthcare costs. Released today on the Health Affairs' Web site, the study assessed new technologies in four areas -- cancer, cardiac and newborn care and diagnostic imaging. The greatest increases in use and cost occurred with diagnostic imaging and cardiac care technologies. For example, one additional hospital capable of coronary angioplasty per 1 million people was associated with $1.3 million in additional spending per 100,000 Medicare cardiac patients per year. On the other hand, in cancer care more PET scanners resulted in greater utilization but not necessarily greater spending, and the researchers found an "inconsistent" relationship between the availability of neonatal intensive care units and spending.
"Although advances in medical technology have produced large benefits in some cases, it is also quite likely that we are spending a considerable amount of money on new technologies that simply are not cost-effective," said Laurence Baker, the study's lead author and an associate professor at Stanford University School of Medicine. Officials at AdvaMed, Washington, which represents medical device manufacturers, said the study failed to account for improved patient health and productivity gains as a result of medical advances. Read the report. -- by Cinda Becker