Health Technology and cost
Imagine you hace a cancer vaccine that completely eradicated all cancer when injected. Now imagine it cost one million dollars a dose. Have you got a cure for cancer?
The great political dilemma of health care is that cost actually does matter. At some point very hard decisions have to be made as to how much the society or an insurer is prepared to pay for a particular patient to gain a particular standard of care. Real innovation in heath care begins with the ability to cure or at least slow down a specific disease; but the iron laws of economics dictate that a real cure is one which works and can be worked into a given budget.
The technologies and techniques I mention in the post below range in cost from a couple of cents - an aspirin - to hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is safe to say that the preventative measures, better food, non-smoking, exercise, will add many more quality days to a life than a last ditch round of chemotherapy which may slow but not erradicate a cancer.
Measured across entire populations, the health effects of clean water, sterile instruments, good sanitation, vaccination and anti-biotics overwhelm the marginal effects of this weeks' medical breakthrough. Which is not to discount the importance of the incredible strides which are being taken at the frontier of medicine; rather it is to suggest that the more people take responsibility for their own health the better the overall health of a society will become.
In the not too distant future the trade offs between ever more expensive medical technology being used to make 82 into 85 and the other things which could be done with the money are going to become very sharp indeed.
Not only do we need medical research to push back the limits of what doctors can do, we also need research into taking very expensive medicines and proceedures and reducing their costs. While medicine is becoming more scientific it should also be becoming more industrial, more dedicated to providing great care while driving down the cost of that care.