Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Medical advances come at a cost

We hear about these great new advances in medicine that are finally released on the market. Maybe its a new drug, a new test, a new device. It doesn't really matter. It is hailed as progress. But progress often comes at a cost - we are slowly learning.

When any medical advance comes with a price tag, the question is then who pays? It comes from one of two places - the patient's pocket through a higher payment or through the insurers pocket which really means all of us pay for it.

So new diabetes pumps were introduced that offer more features, blah, blah, blah. The medical device marketing companies promote them heavily to patients. Each one costs $2500 and has a planned obsolescence every three years. Insurance companies will replace them every four years.

Diabetes is not an inexpensive disease. Patients with insurance spend more than $4000 annually even with insurance. Another $20,000 plus is covered by insurance (or the rest of us). This is called progress.

What kills me about this in an age where recycle/reuse has become more and more important, why are companies introducing something that has a planned obsolescence in three years? Wouldn't it be better to create something that might be upgradable and would last ten years? Thus reducing costs for all of us.

So every time we hear about a new medical device, tests, medication or whatever, we need to ask ourselves - what is the cost? Being covered by insurance is not the right answer.

The real answer should be: the per patient cost per dose/year of coverage is $X so we can see the real cost. Transparency should be required for all new advances and all new developments in the pipeline should have a plan for end patient cost that is justifiable and medical devices should focus on long term use instead of planned obsolescence.

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