Health Care Waste: What $750 billion could buy.

What could $750 billion buy?According to the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM), “Thirty cents of every dollar spent on U.S. health care – a total of $750 billion – was wasted in 2009 on unnecessary services, excessive administrative costs, fraud and other problems.”

There are many ways to portray healthcare inefficiencies. One way is to ridicule the industry by reflecting its waste onto other industries, as listed below. Another is to explore what the $750 billion in wasted money could buy, as Allison McCartney did in her infographic (below). We could also examine what’s possible if healthcare were to adopt best practices from other industries, including the computer industry.

RIDICULE: If other industries had the waste of healthcare, the IOM projected the following:

  • Banking: ATM transactions would no longer take just seconds but perhaps days or longer as a result of unavailable or misplaced records.
  • Home-building: Carpenters, electricians and plumbers would each work with different blueprints and with very little coordination.
  • Shopping: Product prices would not be posted, and the price charged would vary widely within the same store. You wouldn’t know the total until weeks later when all of the separate bills finally arrived.
  • Automobile Manufacturing: Car manufacturers wouldn’t be required to pay for defects, and there would be no warranties. As a result, few factories would seek to monitor and improve production line performance and product quality.
  • Airline travel: Pilots could design their own pre-flight safety check, or not perform any at all.

Healthcare Waste - What could $750 billion buy?

Is Technology the Answer or Part of the Problem?

Just as technology is changing the way we live and work, technologies like smartphones & tablets are helping the health care industry — like the continued push for broadband, telehealth, and EHR adoption to extend health care to rural areas. As clinicians get familiar with mobile devices, they become hungry to use the technology to improve the patient care process. Nonetheless, major obstacles remain, like patient privacy, usability, and radio interference among wireless devices, just to name a few. Janet Dillione (General Manager, Nuance Healthcare) wrote a recent article in Huffington Post on how technology might address the $750 health care waste problem.