The current medical innovations around the world have led to increased concerns about their role in the increasing of medical costs and the burdens on the healthcare systems. On the other hand, medical technology is one of the booming industries of the world, which promises much growth and potential for countries around the world. Britain is among those countries which is one of the best healthcare systems in the world, but due to poor policy decisions is suffering tremendously. The application of medical technologies is therefore becoming very difficult for a country which is low on its health budget.
The identification of the actual role that medical technology has in the raising costs of healthcare is very important if future policies are to be successfully implemented.
Medicine owes all its progress to the indefinite and relentless researching and studying carried out by all those who wished to improve the provision of healthcare and understanding the mysteries of the human body.
Indeed the advancement of the medical technology is proof of all that has been carried out in the name of saving humanity.
Innovation in any field is very important as it ensures the economic growth and long term prosperity of the objective it is carried out for. Now the world enjoys safety from many of the menacing diseases of the past in the forms of vaccines. Many diseases have been eliminated, and many have been given the gift of medicine to help patients cure of it. The net result in general is the increase in the life expectancy and the standards of healthcare, which are showing their effect in small ways or large in all the parts of the world.
These reforms are examples of human achievement and ways of comparisons for further developments to come in the future.
Indeed now a life expectancy and mortality rate has become an indicator for economic development around the globe and speaks of the nation’s welfare. Now prosperous nations show better health statistics and health facilities when compared to poorer nations.
The increase in the life expectancy has increased many folds, with the level of health. Europe and North America show an increase in the life years up to twice that seen in 200 years ago. From 1950-2000, the life expectancy has increased by 3.7 years per decade in Latin America, 6 years in East Asia, 4.5 in South Asia, and 3.4 years in Sub-Saharan Africa respectively. (Papageorgiou, 2006)
Much of this advancement is also attributed to the continuous decrease in the inequality between nations since 1930s. This “demographic transition” could not have been possible if technical medical advancements had not evolved. The increased evolution of medical genius continues till today, and has opened many avenues in all areas of human economy, welfare and social fabric. (Sorek, 2006) Now medical technologies and medical services form a vital economical sector of the world, along with being the healthcare sector.
Medical technology can be avidly described as follows:
“Medical technology refers to the procedures, equipments and processed by which medical care is delivered. Examples in changes of technology would include new medical and surgical procedures (e.g., angioplasty, joint replacements), drugs (e.g., biologic agents), medical devices (e.g., CT scanners, implantable defibrillators), and new support systems (e.g., electronic medical records and transmission of information, telemedicine). There is very little in the field of medicine that does not use some type of medical technology and that has not been affected by new technology.) (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2007)
Yet while these technological advancements and reforms have helped in the advancement of the human civilization in to a broader and more enlightened progress, there have been many changes associated with it. These changes have a very wide range of applicability, and include moral, ethical, professional, social, technical, and economical issues. In other words, now every decision that is taken in the medical world is not limited to the potential benefits to the patients alone, but to the complex fabric of the society and the moral implications that carry with that individual. The decisions therefore are not as simple as they used to be.
Among the many areas, understanding the role of technological advancement on the economical impact is the main area of focus in these articles, where the aim is to highlight the key issues that help shape the current scenario and the contributing factors in it. Understanding these findings may help in exploring the future directions and the various impacts that medical technical advancements have on the economical aspects of the world. (Sorek, 2006)
The trends in the advancements in medicine can be easily divided into the nineteenth century and the twentieth century, although the latter is based on the practices and the works of the nineteenth century. The nineteenth century attributed the improvement in the individual’s life to the improved understanding of nutrition. The twentieth century however, progressed at an alarming rate. The initial half was focused on the concepts of sanitation and hygiene, and in line with preventive and curative strategies for the deadly diseases of the times.
This time was also attributed to the formation of vaccination methods and the actual formation of many vaccines for conditions like polio etc. (Sorek, 2006) This era of medicine is most remarkable, for it was in this era that we humans started to realize the basic concepts of health and hygiene and based on these concepts were able to understand what are the different factors that cause disease and illness.
This was followed by technical improvements in the machines for doctor’s ease, and the introduction of more complex and advanced surgical procedures and techniques. This increased technical advancement was the key reason for the thriving medical industry that we see today. (Sorek, 2006)
Now medical technology has been able to enhance both the life expectancy and the quality of life, as well as decrease the mortality rates around the world. But with these important improvements come the increased burdon on the healthcare system, which must now cater to the ever more increasing population of people.
The primary care is the main method of provision of healthcare to the public in many countries of the world. While this system is considered to be a cost effective measure of providing healthcare to all, it is still with the passage of time disintegrating due to reduced costs and budgets it is provided to tackle a very large population of consumers. The result is an overall dissatisfaction with the system, and no healthcare system in the world has the consumers hundred percent satisfied with the type of services they are given.
The speed with which medical technology has advanced has led us to unravel the secrets of our own hereditary patterns and how they can help us in curing disease. While many findings have led to much encouragement and funding in the areas of medical research, there are areas where the moral and social implications demand that they be debated over and decision be reached based on the arguments against or for it.
This is because this hereditary and genetic engineering is a very expensive procedure, and may become limited to the elite, making it a personalized medicine concept. Already it is causing heavy debates around the world where the thought that rich can afford the best treatments while the poor are denied it is a very disturbing notion. the analysts demand that if genetic engineering is to be introduced, it must be available for all and for general purpose. It is however, unfair to say that genetic engineering is catering to the rich only, as it is helping in treating many of the conditions through advanced vaccination and medicines.
The rising health care costs are also increasing the burden that is being placed on the governments worldwide, making the health advancement issues economic as well. The findings in this area have many genuine reasons to cause concern, and it will be a matter of time, where some issues such as the human genomic experiments and abortion issues can be resolved. These two issues are now worldwide debated, and issues such as religion, morals and ethics and cultural issues all play a very important part in it.
The technological advancements are numerous and have affected all fields of medicine. In neuroscience, the technological advancements of MRI, CT scans and other such innovations have helped understanding the workings of the brain, and now are being utilized in the treatment of many conditions. The introduction of nano devices along with complicated microscopy and imaging services, are now helping in in-situ diagnosis of cancers and many other conditions. These include conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration pertaining to age, and glaucoma and cataract. Other innovations in sciences such as mathematical sciences, social and behavioral sciences, and genetic sciences, all are helping overcome many of the diseases that present to mankind.
Perhaps the biggest contribution of medical technology is in the area of gene research and RNA transferences, which have now enabled humans to correct genetic imperfections, and helped overcome the most disturbing issue in medicine; antibiotic resistance. Stem cells and tissue engineering are working towards providing missing tissue for those lacking in it, and thereby restoring their quality of life. There are many more of these medical innovations and their contribution in the current medical diagnostics and treatment is tremendous. Medicine is truly in its zenith of achievement. (Science and Technology Cluster, 2006)
MRI is now also the current technology for the diagnosis of stroke. MRI is among the few technologies that have been readily accepted and introduced in to many countries. MRI and CT scan both are now one of the common diagnostic tools used around the world. The use of technology has been especially utilized for diagnostic purposes.
Heart surgery is one of the main areas where medical technological advancements have resulted in prompt and successful treatments and have led to significant decrease in the mortality rates. It is now even possible to conduct grafting and transplantations successfully with out any overt consequences.
Another area where medical technology has made its mark is in the area of neonatal care. In the 1950s preterm babies had a very small chance of survival due to lack of facilities for pre-term labors. However, since the 1990s, the introduction of ventilators, incubators, surfactants and other such paraphernalia have improved the chances of survival of such babies, which is seen through the decreased infant mortality rates worldwide. (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2007)
The current medical manufacturing industry in the USA alone is $86 billion, where as the global industry amounts for $220 billion in the technology and machines area alone. The impact of such a huge industry is not to be taken lightly, since these costs and figures are bound to increase overtime, which may in turn affect the different plans and decisions that the government decides to undertake. (Statement of Advanced Medical Technology Association, 2007)
Yet simply ignoring the needs to reform, improve and increase the costs in this area is impossible to do so, as medical area is one such area of human life where ignorance is simply not acceptable. These medical industries are a huge source of revenue for the countries and are now a main area of providing jobs and professions to the labor market. The new areas of research and development are another highly specialized and large area where medical technology is employing the labor market.
Although looking at the above marvels of medical advancement and technology, it is easy to understand the potential benefits of their application, there are potential drawbacks in the situation as well. The first and foremost is the cost factor, and the problem of costs in the implementation of these machineries. Also, there have been suggestions of applying these medical technologies within patients’ homes. While these may sound beneficial, it may be ill handled by patients during their operating, and may reduce the contact of the patient with the physician.
This in turn would increase burdens on the carer and may compromise the standard of care the patient may be receiving. However, these limitations can be overcome through proper planning and implementation, and proper decision making as to who can avail medical technology at home and who could not. (Report to HCHC, 2005) Through many experiments and researches, the positive effects of telehealth have proven that medical technology can indeed save costs and yet provide the quality care the patients deserve.
This means that while medical technology has many perceived benefits, it is not without risks and these risks must be eliminated for the innovations to succeed.
Among the much technological advancement, the use of telecare has been perhaps the most beneficiary for the patients as well as the physicians. It is one of the best examples of the scope of medical technology and how it can help in treating patients effectively who are incapacitated or are living very far from their healthcare facilities. Telecare has become a most cost containing and cost saving technology, as it has allowed freedom of care for the patients, reduced number of hospital admissions and helped in the early diagnosis of any changes in the patients’ conditions, for better or for worst. (Report to HCHC, 2005) Patients have shown immense satisfaction over this initiative, showing that the public is receptive to innovations that are safe and are able to help them solve their problems. Telecare has been of immense help to chronically ill patients such as diabetic and hypertensive patients, and those who are elderly, debilitated or are located far from their primary care healthcare centre.
The figures in the UK may be high but when comparing to the rest of the world are still low. UK is perhaps the only country in the world that is increasing its budget in the healthcare sector so as to provide better healthcare services to the customers. UK is spending approximately 2% of the total healthcare spending per year. The most common areas of research include the cell therapies, tissue engineering, and supporting therapies. The rate of growth of the medical market is expected to grow at the rate of 10.4% in the year 2007 alone.
And this market is set to ever expand. While these costs may seem large at the moment, the increasingly accumulating data is supporting the notion that such innovations are indeed going to help reduce costs in the future. (Science and Technology Cluster, 2006) UK is behind it the race of adapting new medical technologies; therefore, the current plan is to increase the number of medical technological innovations with in the healthcare sector.
Through medical technology many stand to benefit and the effect is international. Medical technology has been able enhance the health status not only in the home countries, but other countries as well, resulting in the increase in the life expectancy worldwide. Two reasons exist for this dissemination and diffusion of the technology; exporting of the technology and the sharing of the ideas in between the countries. Other factors affecting it include the intensity of the imports and the amount of health budget allocation in different areas of the world. It is now widely accepted that the diffusion of medical technologies is the primary reason why many of the diseases have been eliminated or treated simultaneously around the globe. (Papageorgiou, 2006)
The issue however, remains the same. The increase in the medical costs is attributed to many reasons. The pharmaceutical expenses are continuing to grow due to search for more specific and more complex and effective drugs. The introduction of newer medical technologies, some being introduced as early as within 18 months is another factor. The increasing population of aged individuals, the increase in the consumer demand, broader managed care networks, provider consolidation and healthcare labor pressures are among the other contributing factors to the increased costs in the healthcare industry. (AHRQ, 2007) While many claim it to be a major factor in the increase in the costs, some claim that these are very small contributing factors in the rising costs of medical technology.
UNDERSTANDING MEDICAL TECHNOLOGY AND ITS ROLE IN
THE DIFFERENT MEDICAL AREAS
Healthcare provision is an entirely different matter when compared to the provision of other social facilities. It is an industry that is constantly under vigilance of the consumers who utilize it. Such consumers are adamant for the provision of medical insurances, and well as the moral aspects of the medical services. Healthcare provision secondly, needs to be provided to all those who are in need of it and this moral issue cannot be put aside in any way in the case of medicine. (Glazer, 2001)
The disturbing part in the overall assessment of the medical technology is the lack of its presence on the international scale per se. For example; there is no general policy present in the WHO with respect to medical technologies and medical ethics for that fact. (WHO Perspective, 2004) This lack of criteria is a very serious neglect on account of the medical technologies that are currently working as one of the largest contributors in the world economy. Neglecting this important area will only lead to complications in the future, whether exports and imports, innovations and developments and the formulation of laws regarding such materials.
The main issue therefore is the correct application of international standards and protocols that help enable the dissemination of medical technology across the world.
The current market of medical technologies in the UK promises much progress and growth in the sector, which in turn will help in improving the outcomes of the medical care as well. Current UK companies that are giving out medical technologies amount to 4,800 companies, most of them giving a yearly turnout of £5 million. The labor market it employs amount to 55,000 individuals. The annual sales are approximately of £ 6 billion, half of which are export earnings. Information technology is a major part of these technological advancements. The current research and development costs that are spent in the UK alone are £380 million per annum. The progress in this area is rather huge and continues to grow at a very rapid speed. (Report of HCHC, 2005)
Current health care in many of the developed countries is public in nature, which in turn is financed through the income tax. The cost of the public health care is mostly equivalent to the health tax rates that are applied; however, this may not be applicable in many cases. (Sorek, 2006)
The main challenge in the healthcare sector, as in any other one as well, is the increase in the costs of health care delivery, which in turn cause an increased burden on the cost restraints in medical technological advancements. There are many reasons considered to be responsible for it. The increased life expectancy with the resultant increase in ages of the populations, rising costs and fee of the physicians, increase in the population incomes, improved health insurances, malpractice and fraudulent practices, and high administrative costs are all considered to contribute to the current increase in the health care costs. The increase by these however has been thought to be marginal in nature. Most of the increased costs are considered to be due to the technological advancements in the medical area. Now more patients have options for surgical procedures that were in the past very limited.
Heart surgeries are now a very common procedure, which overall is able to increase the overall life expectancy by very few years at the most. While these technological advancements have no doubt increased the overall life expectancies in such patient compared to twenty thirty years ago, it still is the reason why the costs continue to rise today. Today even the most complex of the medical technologies such as the MRIs is now routinely carried out as investigations. The question that arises is whether it is more important to carry out every investigation that may be requisite of a medical condition, or should there be a proper manner through which such investigations be employed.
While provision of medical technologies is indeed important and necessary in many cases, what is more important is to realize at what stage they are going to be the most beneficial. Bone marrow transplants are only fully successful at early stages and in young ages for leukaemic patients. Identifying the suitable person for the procedure is an essential step if medical technologies are to be used to full potential without increasing significant amounts of costs. (Glazer, 2001) Only proper knowledge of the diseases and the correct implementation of the treatments will ensure proper utilization of the resources.
The Oecd in the upcoming years claims that the healthcare costs in many of the countries, UK included are bound to increase by 2% of the GDP. The most contributing factor to it lies in the increase in the aging population that will take place in the years from 2000 to 2050. The rise in the costs makes the already difficult situation in healthcare sectors impossible to manage, and therefore, concerns for making and coming up with strategies that will ensure proper healthcare delivery at reasonable costs, with out compromising quality. This age group will be above 65 years, which will have increased need for medical attention. (Research and Markets, 2007)
As mentioned above, the UK healthcare system has had a very difficult time in coming up to date with the current technological advancements. The application of medical technologies with in the NHS is somewhat recent in nature. However, the use of medical technologies within the NHS has shown at least some interest in the proper direction of application of medical technologies. As stated before, medical technologies within the European countries have been very much neglected or pushed back in the medical policy making schemes due to either costs or the difficult procedures for their applications and utilizations.
One of the biggest reasons why NHS has been slow in the application of these technologies is the large number of trusts that it has. The purchasing policies make it very difficult to carry out purchasing for the 700 NHS trusts. The costs for these equipments are high, with the corresponding costs of hiring and training personnel to operate them are higher still. The health resources are very much jeopardized due to this fact. (Fifth Report of HCHC, 2005) In NHS case therefore, any innovations that are carried out will need to be highly organized and distributed according to the need of each trust individually. These will require not only the assistance of the government but also of the private sectors as well.
The new generation of patients known as the high cost populations is among the groups that stand to benefit the most from these advancements. Ironically, it is the same group that is the most costly of all the patients when it comes to the increase in the healthcare costs. Such consumers are taking up more than their fair share of healthcare costs, and include patients that are either high risk pregnancy patients, patients with cancer or heart disease, HIV or AIDS or those who are disabled. Such patients are called so because of the accumulation of many health risk factors in them. These risk factors can be lack of exercise, high blood pressures, smoking, obesity and depression and stress.
It is these patients who are in need of constant vigilance and care and therefore the costs that are applied on such cases is more than with other patients without any risk factors. Therefore, in the future planning, the aim must be to reduce such an entity of patients to a minimum and support from many areas of healthcare must be advocated to achieve this. While medical technology is a good tool to help diagnose and treat different diseases, it is still not advanced enough to encourage changes in life style among patients. Therefore, in such areas, behavioral interventions and public education are perceived to play a greater role in controlling the eventual costs of healthcare.
The current areas of medical advancement and research are aiming to provide medical technologies in the newer areas of healthcare and disease. Now medical technology and research is aiming to find treatments for terminally ill conditions, such as diabetes, end stage renal diseases and HIV. More research is underway in the area of heart surgery. Medical technologies are now finding ways to treat the secondary conditions that develop during the course of a medical condition and ways to diagnose them, and providing incremental advancements in the areas of medical ailments and clinical care. (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2007) The future of medical technologies is very bright and the contribution of it in the future medical scenario must not be underestimated.
THE LEVEL OF QUALITY PROVIDED DUE TO INTRODUCTION
OF MEDICAL TECHNOLOGIES
The potential role that medical innovations are now providing in the healthcare sector is phenomenal. The current concepts of medical technologies are miles ahead of the ideas of the past, and now the emergence of newer lines of technical gadgetry is making previously wishful ideas in to realities. The technologies of the future are now the hybrids and biotech products, bio-resorbable devices, and nanotechnologies. Now these new toys of medicine also utilize the world internet services as well. (Driscoll, 2007)
Among all the health conditions present, perhaps none has benefited more from the advancing medical technologies than cancers and heart failures. These two areas have been the nexus of all the scientific research and discovery, with the results that now the current techniques are able to provide quality treatments with good margins of successes.
The use of new surgical procedures in lieu with the most recent scientific discoveries and gadgets have helped in reducing risks in major surgeries like heart surgeries. The outcomes are much better than before, and the prognosis is good and even getting better with time. Similarly, in case of cancer treatments, only a limited line of treatments was available before. Now, the introduction of genetic engineering, tissue culturing and a new generation of anti-cancer drugs are making cancers a thing of the past.
The advancements in the medical technology are numerous. The recent ones include the MRI scans, the discovery of genetically engineered growth factors, highly advanced drugs, improvements in the overall surgical procedures and efficiency, chemotherapy success rates and much more. Now medical technology is the new face of prevention, treatment and cure. (Garber, 2001)
The level of healthcare provided to the patient or the customer is decided in completely different terms than if it is decided or evaluated by medical or governmental institutes. This difference in the approach is the main reason why it becomes very difficult to assess the true efficacy of a healthcare system. When a patient is asked to describe the efficacy of the health care system, he or she would look at the issues of timely access, affordability and safety, responsiveness to preferences, efficient care co-ordination and perceived clinical outcomes.
When looking from a clinicians or government’s perspective however, the issues of concern become redesigning care delivery, payment or insurance. While the healthcare sector and the government may be keen on the health aspect of the customer as well, the economic factor gains precedence. When it comes to the perspective of the customer or the patient, the thought of considering costs becomes an appalling predicament calling it rash unconcern on the government’s behalf. (Osborn et al, 2005)
Yet these views of the government are not entirely unfounded. Many claim that while the pharmacological and technical advancements improve the overall performance of the healthcare sector, it has also opened doors to a more complicated, specialized care, which is highly disorganized at the extreme to predominantly fragment at the mildest. The patients fall in increase risk due to the above mentioned reasons, along with increased costs. Care coordination likely suffers due to these aberrations. (Osborn et al, 2005)
This finding raises two main issues. Firstly, in order to make medical technology successful, a concurrent application of procedures must be introduced to ensure proper organization and utilization of such services. And secondly, on the positive front, medical technology acts as a bridge between the patients and the providers and may help reduce the gap that customers mostly feel with their providers. the NHS is lagging in these areas at the moment and it is imperative that it be able to address these issues before any more advancements or policies are made.
These advantages of medical technologies are applicable to both the customers as well as the healthcare providers. On the patients’ front it has helped reduce prevention strategies, saved lives, given timely information to patients on their various queries, improved the quality of life and reduced the costs of patients suffering from long term health conditions, and helped track the progress of patients who suffer from diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. (Report to HCHC, 2005)
On the professionals’ front medical technology has helped in efficiently streamlining the working of the professionals, and has helped them in proper monitoring, performance management, clinical governance and continuing evidence based practice procedures. It has increased the convenience for many hospital procedures, and has linked the social care with the NHS, along with reducing the potential human errors that can take place in the care of the individuals. (Report to HCHC, 2005)
Overall, both the sides stand to benefit from these innovations. In all the countries that have utilized the use of medical technologies, all have shown immense satisfaction with the results, barring the lack of any professional trained personnel etc.
IS THE TECHNICAL ADVANCEMENT IN MEDICINE COST EFFECTIVE?
Identifying whether any new technology will be cost effective depends on many factors. How much will it cost in the treatment of one patient. Also, is it a replacement to the treatment provided to a medical condition or is it a full or partial replacement to it. Does the technology result in increased or decreased health spending for each patient treated? And does it affect in any way the outcomes of costs on hospitals and days of stays. (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2007)
The other factors are the efficiency with which the new technology is able to achieve results. Limited technologies to the hospital only are not a very cost effective investment. Such technologies particularly address towards the screenings for different diseases carried out. Also, will the introduction of such technology result in savings down the line, or is it an extra burden leading to increased costs with no substantial benefits. (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2007)
The rising costs of medical technologies highlight three main areas of debate. The employer based health insurance that in the past held on somewhat effectively is now unraveling with no backup plans. Secondly medical care all over the world and especially in the UK is under immense economical strain. The third is the government’s solvency, which is a direct reason for the increase of healthcare costs. (Wells and Krugman, 2006)
The difficulty arises in the correct estimation of the total benefit of such innovations. The medical technology is a very dynamic and continuous field growing at a phenomenal speed. It is integrated into many areas of the social fabric and therefore the impacts and influences are all interrelated, which makes isolated findings difficult to assess. Added to these are multiple factors that are affecting the current market. The consumer demand, and the increase in the incomes of families are major determinants of the outcomes of medical innovations and technical advancements.
The current medical technology market is under intense competition from its peers as more and more changes take place in it. The newer product ranges every eighteen months are a testament to the rapid progression of the field. (Statement AMTA, 2005) This progression however, also shows the increased costs that it exhumes to reach results and therefore, raises concerns in many conservative medical policy makers about the actual benefit of such innovations in the actual clinical fields. Many clinicians feel that the allocations made in the area of research and development and unnecessarily high and must be used to provide more basic healthcare necessities, such as medicine and beds in the hospitals. The argument is the chief reason for debate in the countries world wide, where it is considered that demanding such is akin to ignoring and rejecting the efforts of research in the progression of medicine.
There are many other factors that also demoralize the medical innovations and discoveries. While sadly, the quest for human health and knowledge in this field may have resulted in much advancement; it is still under the effects of the economic changes that occur around the world. The advancement in medicine has shown a decrease in fertility and mortality. The increased in the culture of human offspring as investments for future financial security of the parents has led to the preference for lesser children with more investment in each individual’s capital. The change in the economic outlook has resulted in an overall increase in individual’s national health care expenditures around the world, although varying according to age. (Sorek, 2006)
The changes are demographical and their implications are many. Due to the increase in the human capitalism discussed above, the labor productivity and technological progress has occurred simultaneously. Also the decrease in the provision of medical care with a concurrent increase in incomes has led to more utilization of health care services among the elderly, which has increased the overall life expectancy of people. (Sorek, 2006) All these changes are affecting the global scenario in a magnificent manner, and tackling with the issue must be done.
The biggest problem lies in the recent manner of the healthcare industry to blame all the health and medical expenditure to be caused by the new medical technologies and machinery. This is now carried out without any research on the effects that the particular innovation may have had in the accuracy of diagnosis, increased efficiency and the decreased time that it takes in carrying out the procedure, thus addressing many more patients that would not have been possible otherwise. (Garber, 2001) This argument may well be open for debate. For as much as the costs of medical technologies may be costing, there is no doubt as to the economical return and savings they provide once they start to operate.
The simple example is the use of telecare, which has enabled the provision of care from distances, and has helped clinicians come in closer contact with their patients like never before. While the equipment itself may have been “expensive”, it saves much of the patient’s time, energy and resources, the hospital visits, and unnecessary follow-ups, with out once being out of contact with the physician. The distant care has solved many problems for the elderly, and this is a huge saving in countries like UK, where the number of aging population is increasing rapidly.
The role of different health sectors must be given their due credit. It is to the credit of private investments that healthcare has achieved such technological advancements over the years. The introduction of these led to the need of specialists skilled in operating such devices and machinery. All these advancements however, did amount to significant costs, an economic factor that came in to play a little later in the course. However, the main player in its advancement is due to private investments carried out, which in the long run are expected to return the input that has been placed in it.
The results of such innovations and technological advancements are now very visible. Many of the routine surgical procedures that in the past were dependant upon extensive operations have now become limited to laporoscopic interventions. The result is the decreased time, increased efficiency and decreased costs in treating the same condition compared to before. There is no doubt that laparoscopic interventions have reduced the risks of post operative complications and discomfort, dosages of medicine, the overall time spent in the hospital since the time of admission till the time of discharge, and the number of follow-up visits after the surgical procedure.
The costs that one saves in each procedure are therefore very high and more productive in terms of the financial impacts. The physicians too are able to handle multiple patients with in the day and thereby are able to work more effectively. The only concern that remains is the unnecessary utilization of the service among the patients for procedures that they may not need. (Fendrick et al, 1997) This practice is not unknown in primary care insurance holders, where the patients will utilize any services that they are provided with, without seriously looking into the potential benefit or loss that they will gain by it.
Many of the advancements in healthcare sector have prompted severe debates around the world. The debates are mainly in the areas of ethical and moral issues, and for investors and policy makers, the economical implications. Among these, the most important one is of the potential benefit of stem cell researches. While no physician or medical professional would argue against the potential role stem cell research has in the shaping of healthcare’s future, the debate intensifies on setting priority of the patient over all other researches. This means that many question the actual benefits that stem cell research can provide, along with the economical and mortality findings that it can lead to.
Another area of recent controversial debates is the introduction of the concept termed new personalized therapies. Again, the procedures raise questions about the costs, the effects on the utilizations, and the benefits for length and quality of life.
While technical advancements may be the reason for increased cost, understanding the expenditures in other areas of health care also may help understand the reasons for increased costing. The reversion towards managed care in many of the countries and avoidance of fee for service systems lies in the rates of expenditures that seen in the latter. Managed care is perhaps the best system to reduce costs effectively, despite its numerous failings. The increase in the HMO practices have indeed shown a slow down in the over all cost inflation in the healthcare industry. The role of medical technologies in increasing the costs of the healthcare systems remains a debate, as the exact mechanisms in this area are still unexplored. (Fendrick et al, 1997)
The main issue that hinders the correct application of medical technologies is because of the government policies that hinder the different processes, and make it very difficult for the patient to access them. Such is especially true in case of UK, where the policies for the implementation of technologies are very complicated. The insurance companies also seem to ignore the proper provision for such technologies, making the access for the patient all the more difficult. The issue is prevalent around the world in more or less the same manner.
The problem is the lack of awareness of the singular contribution of these technologies in the overall health care quality. Other issues are the lack of future planning in almost all healthcare planning and budgeting leading to immature decisions that do not look at the importance of technical advancements in the overall reduction of healthcare costs. This lack of priority towards the technology is the main reason why its full contribution and benefits are not seen nor utilized. The patient as a consequence to it suffers. (Statement AMTA, 2005)
Due to the constant increases in the prices, many of the countries within and outside of the Oecd have started implementing many methods to cut down costs. But mostly such policies work on one of the three methods. These methods include containing costs of the medicines available, and the input resources. The other two policies can be either shifting such costs over to the private sectors; or finally caps on the health spending, either overall or by sector. The last option is usually implemented on the hospitals, as they constitute the most expensive costing modalities within the healthcare system.
The introduction of the DRGs or the diagnostic related groups schemes have been made specifically so as to reduce the effects of the global budget allocations. Indeed while this move may have been considered in terms of fiscal savings, it is nevertheless restrictive and barricading towards positive growth of the medical industry. Most of these doubts are somewhat unfounded, as there is still time before these schemes are followed through and their effects properly understood. (Research and Markets, 2007)
Through many efforts, a Group for Medical Technology has finally emerged acting with participation of the patients and patient groups, as well as medical professionals and medical industry in the UK. All aim for one goal; the provision of medical technology services in a timely and coordinated manner to the patient. Many of the technologies aimed in this group are simple ones such as insulin pumps, urinary catheters, diagnostic equipment etc., but other complicated hospital equipment is not out of these groups’ efforts either. Even simple procedures such as diagnostic imaging are a very convenient way to reach appropriate diagnosis without resolving to surgical procedures.
Other methods such as phacoemulsification for cataract removal are another way to reduce complications in this area. The reduction of in hospital stays and its complications such as hospital acquired infections are also another one of the advantages of such innovations. Although the initial costs may be perceived to be high, any long study will be able to prove the economical saving that these innovations can create. The problems of increased medical costs with decreased amounts of care, which has been an issue in all primary care trusts all around the world an now, finally be dealt with. (Wanless, 2002)
The issue of costs is going to increase with time as the majority of the UK population reaches the elder age groups, requiring increased medical facilities. In light of the situation, many recommendations are currently put forward to help reduce or control costs and plan for the future challenges. (Medical Technology, 2006) Many analysts agree that if competition among the various healthcare providers is increased, it will help to increase the quality of care and improve efficiency. The result oriented healthcare in Europe concept is not a new one; however, the implementation of this concept in the recent times is indeed going to be in the initial stages. Another proposal in this area is to make the customers more responsible for the healthcare facilities that they utilize. Currently a major portion of healthcare costs are wasted on unnecessary investigations and healthcare provision, which is provided to the patient as per the insurance contracts or primary care services.
By making the patients more financially responsible, all the while giving them services for major illnesses and surgeries, much cost can be controlled. Much of the public is unaware about many of the health conditions prevalent such as diabetes and hypertension. (Medical Technology, 2006) If the public is helped through increasing awareness and given the right concepts about different diseases, the patients may be able to identify their problems at an early stage, visit for an early referral and thereby save costs by treating the condition at an early stage.
Lastly, the introduction of innovations while recommended has not been properly rewarded in many healthcare districts. If such innovations are lauded and rewarded, it will also increase the hospitals innovations and applications of medical technologies. This in turn will also increase the efficiency of healthcare delivery. These and many more concepts are currently under review and debate, and are thought to help increase the uptake of medical technology, which is the UK, is sadly lagging behind. (Medical Technology, 2006)
It is important to bring in the concept of rationing that is affecting the medical scenario at the moment. Rationing has been carried out in the UK for a longer time than other countries. This rationing is the reason why the clinicians here are faced with tougher clinical decisions. It was at the start used as a preventive and temporary measure, however, with the increased rise in costs, rationing has become a common feature in the UK. as such the physicians are given a fixed annual amount to care for each patient. This is the same for hospitals, where the only relief is the occasional added funding that can be given to it. A more market driven approach is now used in the UK medical scene, and provider competition is now encouraged to improve quality care.
These limitations such as those stated above are the reason why UK lags behind in many of the medical technological advancements. The lack of proper frameworks up till recently is the reason why UK needs to allocate more funds and introduce more technologies within its healthcare setup.
COMPARISON OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF MEDICAL
TECHNOLOGIES IN THE GLOBE
To clarify the economical position of the health economy, one must be aware of what is occurring behind it. Sorek, (2006) states it as follows:
“In an overlapping generations economy with a homogenous population, agents consume, reproduce (bear children), and rear their children. Adults work in the production of consumption good and health care services, and they generate human capital—their own and that of their children.” (Sorek, 2006)
The roles of humans as capitals have been discussed in the previous pages. What is to note is the growing role that this is playing in the shaping of many government policies regarding healthcare services.
Many health care models are now present that are good examples of health care expenditure controls and utilizations. Such examples of the countries can be very useful for the United Kingdom and may help in providing solutions to the health care problems in the country.
Countries such as Japan and European countries may stand to benefit the most from the medical technologies currently available in the market. This is because of two reasons. Firstly, the health costs in both these countries are very high. This means that both these healthcare systems are working under intense financial constraints, a limitation that may be largely relieved should medical technological advancements are introduced in the sector. Secondly, Japan and Britain are now facing an aging population, the needs of which are higher than other age groups. Medical technologies again may be able to help in this regard as it may help speed up processes and ensure correct identification of the diseases that may be treatable at early stages such as cancers.
Technological medicine therefore offers many solutions to the health care industry should it be seriously implemented. The quality and extent of patients’ lives can benefit largely due to medical innovations and technological advancements. It can help reducing costs and thereby control budgets, improve the efficiency of health care delivery system through increased productivity. (Statement AMTA, 2005)
Another strong example in this regard is of France. France has now steadily improved its standing in the health care industry due to the many innovations it has carried out over the years. Indeed, the French health care system is rendered the best in the world by WHO. (Rodwin, 2003) Not only is the system adequate to address the growing demands of the healthcare industry, but also is able to satisfy its customers, a feat very few countries have achieved until now. The health care system of France has borrowed its concepts from the post world war II system, where local institutions were given managements through trade unions and employer representatives. (Rodwin, 2003)
The healthcare system of France is based on the principals of liberalism and pluralism. Liberalism gives the patients choice in selecting their own physician, physicians the choice to practice wherever they feel like, clinical freedom and professional confidentiality. It especially has been able to provide a means through which public as well as proprietary hospitals are able to co-exist harmoniously. Similarly, organizational diversity is visible through ambiguous presence of office based solo and private group practices, health centers, occupational health services, and public sector programs.(Rodwin, 2003)
The French healthcare system has become a symbol of “synthesis of solidarity and liberalism”, leaving behind the “nationalizing” of the British and the “competition” of the US systems. Although many analysts still point out many discrepancies and deficiencies in the system, the French healthcare system still is able to provide a very positive example to all the health care systems around the world. (Rodwin, 2003) It is no wonder that France is rated as one of the best healthcare systems in the world.
The key of the French healthcare system is the unique combination of universal coverage with “a public-private mix of hospital and ambulatory care.” (Rodwin, 2003) Other salient findings are the increased levels and amounts of resources at the disposal and the higher value of service provided to the customers. Despite the seemingly costly changes and methods in the healthcare system, France has only shown the expenditure from its GDP to be 9.5%, significantly lower than many other countries where higher GDP percentages are still unable to provide the same results. The two health insurances in France are the NHI, and the supplementary health insurance, which automatically enroll all who utilize health services based on their occupation. (Rodwin, 2003)
France still remains among the higher spenders in the healthcare sectors globally, however, its costs are still contained to some extent when comparing with other countries such as the USA, which is spending the most amount in the health care sector compared to the rest of the world. Nevertheless, even with the slightly higher spending rates, France has been able to provide a very strong example of a good healthcare sector and programming. (Rodwin, 2003)
Many more researches have been conducted worldwide that are exploring the patient and cross national perspectives. The idea is to understand the various factors that dictate the level of consumer satisfaction among the customers and how every country has devised models and strategies to deal with them. The other reason is to understand the various approaches of the different countries and to understand their individual strengths and weaknesses, so as to reach a dynamic healthcare solution that helps all, and jeopardizes none. (Osborne et al, 2005)
UK lags behind severely in the case if medical health provision from many countries. The lack of services has led to decreased life expectancy of patients with heart disease, stroke or breast cancer. Also, the OECD reports show the lack of access to healthcare is also affected by the age of the patients. Patients with the ages above 65 are the most affected age group among all. (Green, 2003) UK patients with colorectal cancers have shown low survival rates, where as in the case of liver cancers, UK is only better than Denmark. Similarly, lung cancer survival rates are also lowest for Denmark and UK. Breast cancer survival and care rates in Britain are below average when comparing them with France, Netherlands and Switzerland. (Green, 2003)
Similarly, England shows a decreased number of physicians when compared to other countries. For example, the number of neurologists is 5 per 10,000. The screening for mammography in women aged above 70 years amounts to only 3.2 %, portraying a dismal picture of the health services provided in the UK. OECD also showed that there is more restriction in the number of specialist units in the UK when compared to other countries. Consequently, the high utilization of the revascularization procedures was also low. (Green, 2003)
Revascularization rates were also seen to be lower due to the global budgeting method carried out in the UK. the reverse has been seen in countries where fee for service methods were utilized. England displays the lowest five-year survival rates when compared to other countries. UK has developed the habit of using supply side constraints to limit the delivering of services to the elderly population. Similarly, death within six months of detection of cancer is the greatest in the UK. This shows the serious lack of proper screening systems in the NHS, which are the main determinants in the survival of cancer patients and their early diagnosis. (Green, 2003)
Almost all the countries show lack of consistent satisfactory performance in all areas of healthcare provision. The patient surveys have shown very low percentages of the populations being adequately comfortable or happy with their healthcare systems. While there are similarities in the problems stated by the participants across the countries, the surveyors were also able to find some important variations and differences between the healthcare systems of each country. Overall, the United States, despite its highest medical budgets and spending, is considered the most inadequate in providing quality or timely care. This is in comparison to countries like Germany, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Germany has been considered one of the efficient healthcare systems when it comes to timely access to the medical services. (Osborn et al, 2005)
Almost all the participants in the survey carried out by Osborn and his colleagues in 2005 showed dissatisfaction in the level of hospitalized care that they underwent. Many of the patients claimed that issues such as pain and risks, decision making and discharges were not adequately explained nor smoothly carried out, causing difficulty in the overall care during the stay.
Discharge or post operative instructions were again lacking in many participants’ opinions, and proper follow-ups were not carried out as expected. It was the same in case of medications. While Germans were unhappy with the fact that previous medication history prior to admission in hospitals was not taken into account, the remaining participants claimed they were given a new medication usually when they were discharged. The consequences of these neglects were frequent readmissions and some complications that were otherwise preventable in the first case. (Osborn et al, 2005)
While the remaining countries showed an increase in the errors in medical management and diagnosis, this was the least seen in cases of patients of the United Kingdom. However, UK as well as Germany patients were also the least likely to report a self-management care plan given to them. (Osborne et al, 2005)
United Kingdom however, did show a higher percentage of service provision for screening tests and exams for diabetics, when compared to other countries. This ranged from 55-58% of the cases, which was also seen in patients of Germany and United States. The biggest dissatisfaction that came to the patients was the lack of clarity in the instructions that the physicians gave to their customers about the treatments and even less in giving the patients options about preferences.
In the UK this was almost half of the percentage of patients surveyed. However, more than half of the UK population was able to easily access the medical facility than compared to the patients of the countries of New Zealand and Germany, where more than 70% patients showed satisfaction with timely access. Similarly, compared to other countries, the UK patients were the most protected from the costs. (Osborn et al, 2005)
Despite the problems outlined by the different participants, the patients of the United Kingdom held the most positive system views, although most did agree that there is room for improvement.
Compared to all the markets and countries discussed above, the European market in general is a very hostile market for medical innovation and development. The healthcare structures in Europe are within themselves highly varied with the lack of common reimbursement policies in Europe. The lukewarm reception towards the medical technology is perhaps the greatest hurdle to cross. (Research and Markets, 2005)
The main issue is the lack of identification of the role that medical technologies and the benefits that these provide. Surveys and researches now report that the up-take of new medical technologies has been seen to be higher in other countries when compared to UK. in germany for example, the use of insulin pumps among the diabetic patients is nearly double that of the number of patients using pumps in the UK.
Germany is one of the leading countries that are using medical technologies and implementing them. When compared to USA, Italy, Spain and France, UK lags behind in implementing medical technologies. Germany spends 8.6% and 0.92% of healthcare budgets and GDP respectively, compared to 4.8% and 0.36% of the same values respectively in the UK. (Report of HCHC, 2005)
The current aims in the UK government in this area are to increase the number of personnel, and to set a proper guideline and proper surgical protocols. Both these aims can help in solving the other major issues at the moment, which are reimbursement issues and the regulatory climates. (Researches and Markets, 2005)
Another method of understanding the costs in medicine is through the use of cost effectiveness analysis. This tool allocates funds and resources through evaluation of extra costs per added unit of health benefit. The use of such cost effectiveness analysis is being widely implemented across the globe. This tool is one of the most comprehensive ones to evaluate the relationship between health and economic consequences of certain healthcare interventions. The results are then displayed as incremental cost effectiveness ratio. (Salomon, 2004)
Consider for example the current treatments that are round the clock being introduced for Hepatitis C infections. It has been seen that each new treatment modality introduced is giving a better cost effectiveness ratio than the one before. Most ratios have now dropped below $10,000. Such is the example of innovative technologies that can help in the future in controlling cost burdens. The key is to correctly forecast the possible future directions research will take in the treatment of a condition. This forecast can then be utilized to understand the economic factors that will be associated with it, and by comparing them to the current treatment strategies, the future perspectives can be evaluated.
Many medical ailments stand to benefit through this method. These include chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, cystic fibrosis, primary pulmonary hypertension, and Parkinson’s disease. The researches are aimed mostly for those conditions that manifest themselves acutely. Technological changes are the main determinants of the timings of the treatments. These innovations, along with the use of sound clinical guidelines, health policies, and investments for new technology, will help ensure fast progression for the treatment of many conditions. (Salomon, 2004)
THE POSITION OF GREECE IN MEDICAL TECHNOLOGICAL IMPLEMENTATION
The per capita spending on Health by Greece amounts to $1,184, which is around 9.5 % of the GDP with a growth rate of 4.4% per annum. Greece is one of those countries that are striving very hard to reach to the same economical levels to that of other European countries. The increase in the innovations is a step to bridge the gap, and has shown increased and impressive performances since the late nineties. The number of manufacturing enterprises has increased by 10% at an average.
Greece has a very massive potential for growth and therefore is a highly lucrative market in terms of technological innovations. What is even more interesting is the fact that around 60% of the manufacturing enterprises in Greece are working on research and developments. However, the research and development is highly dependant on the assistance that the government provides to these companies. This shows the interest that the government displays in promoting the culture of research and development within the country. (Survey in Greek Enterprises, 2001)
Greece however, faces the same daunting challenges in the area of innovation as every other country. The lack of funds is the main issue that hinders the smooth progress of research and development, along with the organizational difficulties that are becoming the bane of problems all around the world. (Survey in Greek Enterprises, 2001)
Today, in its quest to attain equivalence, Greece has shown the highest annual growth rate in the research and development department since 1995. this is also seen through an 80% increase in the number of personnel working in the research and development. Greece boasts of the highest percentage of female researchers in the entire of Europe. Greece therefore is a country that is developing at a very rapid rate and is the focus of attention of many countries for its dedication towards achieving equivalency. (Research and Development in Greece, 2005)
This increase in the research and development is resulting in improved technological advancement and scientific performance. Greece now aims to create an information structure for itself in implementing science and technology.
The medical equipment market of Greece has been estimated to cost around US$750 million. 95 % of the market is input based of which American imports constitute 40% of the share. Greece is among the avid importers of medical technology and therefore the American market is growing at the rate of 10-15% per annum. Most of the Greek medical healthcare system is public based and therefore the purchasers are concentrated here. Not only is Greece importing instruments and diagnosing apparatus, but is also now aiming to include to its list newer IT technological software for medical purposes. Greece is a very strong market for medical technologies. (US Healthcare Technology Missions, 2006)
CONCLUSIONS AND PROPOSALS
There are many conclusions to be drawn from the many macro studies conducted on population health and healthcare. The population health around the world is improving, with increased life expectancy. This has resulted in increase in the medical expenditures. As many factors contribute to the overall approach to health, it remains unclear as to what exactly is the role of medical treatment in all this. For behavioral changes, improvements in the socioeconomic status, public health interventions among other factors have a very definite contribution as well.
The basic principals apply to all countries in more or less the same way, yet the extent may be of different intensity. The availability of the intensive procedures may vary among countries such as Japan and UK or USA. Similarly, the prices for the same procedure may also vary according to country or location. Most of these results are consistent with the aggregate differences in health expenditures across countries. However, the countries show little apparent differences in the disease outcomes. The main problem is the lack of any information of the effect of technological advancements in the area medical care.
Recent studies have been able to put some concrete evidence on the table about the effects of medical technology in the healthcare sector. However, the limitation again rises here since many of the studies are limited to USA and therefore are very difficult to apply to the rest of the world. Moreover, the understanding of the role of economic and regulatory influences on technological change is more speculative in nature. What are needed are micro level studies around the world in different countries which will help in getting a clearer idea about the actual role of medical advancement in healthcare.
It must be stated that medical technologies and innovations, although may be costly, are still in the best interests of the humanity. The increased medical costs may seem initially to be bad, but in the long run may turn out to be a blessing in disguise, as it may raise the standards and quality of healthcare provision. Within budgets and limits, a fair balance between spending on medical technologies as well as providing quality health care is not entirely impossible. The key is careful planning and improvisation, budgeting and provision of good health care plans for the masses. All this requires careful planning and considerations if success is to be achieved.
Added to these is the fact that medical technology is the next big investment area of growth. The global healthcare industry amounts to $3-4 trillion, a number that is going to increase with time. The largest area in this industry is the diagnostic tools that are continuously being upgraded and made for new purposes. What this implies is that “technology must now be deployed to undermine the current medical establishments and their ways of doing things, not least to evaporate the crippling fiscal burden of healthcare on governments across the world.”(Orme, 2007) the newer introduction of technologies are going to be molecular imaging, CT scanners, and many other such gadgets aimed to address the diagnosing of conditions such as heart disease and cancers. The market is set to grow at an alarming pace, and this is the reason why many countries around the world are currently working towards claiming their share within it. (Orme, 2007)
The US micro studies are a very good example to study the effects of medical technology on the healthcare system. Technological changes and development are a more important explanation of expenditure growth for specific illnesses. Other minor factors whose contribution is yet to understand the demographic changes, and the increases in prices and policy changes.
Debate still exist whether to call these factors as major or minor, but until some evidence is not reached, it is early to say it either ways. Technological advancements have however, shown a decrease in the overall mortality rates, a very important finding that demands introspection. Technological advancements, have no doubt improved the overall quality of healthcare systems, and as such any expenditures that are resulting in improvements in outcomes are worthy expenditures.
The United Kingdom’s health care system lacks in many respects when comparing to other countries of the world. This fact is a serious question to the ability of the health care industry to provide good quality care, where there is the finest machinery and technological advancement available around the globe. Infant mortality rates were very high even in the late nineties, and similarly the life expectancy was lower when compared to other countries like the USA, France, Germany, Italy or Japan. Only 27% of the UK population is satisfied with the healthcare system and services they received, compared to 41% of the French and German populations. (Rodwin, 2003)
The UK healthcare system is perhaps one of the most restrictive systems in case of delivery of healthcare systems. This restriction is attributed to many reasons. Britain has to carry out increased capital expenditures and costly investments to train specialized staff. This is because Britain has limited numbers of equipments, expenditures, investments, trained personnel, staffs and technicians. (Glazer, 2001) In simple words “restricting service requires restricting capacity”, which at the moment is very difficult in the healthcare sector. The increase in capacity can help treat more patients, increase the capital, reduce the length of patient stays, and increases the overall welfare of the patient. (Glazer, 2001)
The potential barriers to the proper implementation of medical technologies include the increasing numbers of aging population of the UK, the ethical issues that may surround many of the medical innovations including the public attitudes, the shortage of skilled personnel in bioinformatics, the inability of many laboratories to take up innovations due to increased costs, and health tourism. (Science and Technology Cluster, 2006)
For the purpose of proper addressing of the issue, the Task Force has been proposed to overlook the different aspects of medical technology and understand the barriers that stand in the way. The task force made will help to assess the various areas of medical technologies, for example, when installing systems such as telecare, and how they can be adjusted to suit the needs of the patients. Not only these systems be adjusted for the patients convenience, but such systems should also be easy to manipulate by all those who are involved in the patients care. The introduction of novel methods to tackle the issues of cost containment should be undertaken, and inter-operational capacities should be introduced within such technologies so as to coordinate the 700 NHS trusts that are operating at the moment. (Report to HCHC, 2005)
The new programs for patient access to medical technology are a “Four Point Plan”, which aims to increase funding and thereby improve access to the medical technologies. This program also intends to ensure the implementation of all the necessary recommendations and guidelines for the purpose. The program aims to put priority to patients’ access for the treatment, and thereby devising methods that ensure it. And lastly, the program aims to provide the supply of medical personnel and trained staff that ensure proper utilization of these resources. (Wanless, 2002)
However, only implementing these technologies is just the first step in the road to medical innovation. The uptake of these medical technologies needs to be properly monitored at all levels, and such should be in accordance with the NICE principals and guidelines. This is important to ensure that no inequalities or disturbances occur in the allocation system. Much has been said about certain areas receiving lower quality of healthcare than others and it is important that fair distribution of the resources is carried out to improve outcomes on an overall scale. The physicians and the hospitals must also be encouraged to utilize these innovations and make them part of their practices, so as to provide full benefits to their patients. (Wanless, 2002)
The requirement therefore is the institution of proper methods and protocols that help ensure the proper utilization of medical technology. This means finding out ways and methods that assess the usefulness of the medical technology in terms of effectiveness, time saving, productivity and the economical significance. Expecting this kind of approach within the customers should not be expected for two reasons. Firstly, the customers may not be aware of the purpose and function of each technology that they come across with, let alone their relevance. Secondly, due to the first stated reasons, customers may not be able to demand or emphasize on their need to be provided with the technology. Such evaluation however, needs to be practical and not assumed on the basis of theories. Evidence based coverage and reimbursement must also be included. (Kary, 2005)
Similarly, it is also the responsibility of the insurance companies to provide patients with the options of latest medical technologies. Most of the insurance companies around the world have adopted the policy of less for more, meaning that patients with minor illnesses are given approvals, where as the complicated cases are denied for care. Many of these complicated cases are in need for the advanced medical technologies, and denying them care raises many moral questions, an issue that is among the most debated related to medical healthcare.
Denial to technological advancements in the past may have been possible and indeed feasible; however, the current changing scenario of the medical spectrum demands that healthcare systems incorporate these as integrated and individual entities. In the future, only those medical care systems are expected to survive which are incorporating the most advanced technologies. Leaving these out of the equation is in no way justifiable neither practical.
UK requires a much more planned organization for implementing medical technologies in its healthcare plan. Comparing with other countries such as France, Germany and USA, UK lags behind severely. The rates of mortality are higher than many other countries, and the geriatric population has been seriously neglected in the case of rationing and distribution of resources. UK has not been able to reach in to all areas of population, and therefore has not been able to provide the quality healthcare that should be of its standards.
The medical technology therefore, also lags behind. Medical technology requires proper setups and environments for it to succeed. And for this purpose the need for technical expertise is great. UK again lacks in this area, and therefore, the problem becomes compounded many times. Understanding these issues is very important for the success of the UK system on the whole, let alone the successful application of medical technologies.
The main areas of future research include the estimation of how national health policies affect technological change and how are they significant? How is medical technology responsible for explaining medical spending? And what is the contribution of medical technology in the improvements of disease outcomes? Understanding these key issues is the key to understanding how we can control costs.
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