The influential Institute of Medicine has completed a comprehensive review of the nation's health care system, and here's the frightening diagnosis: Nearly $750 billion a year is wasted on unnecessary care, excessive administrative costs, fraud, duplication and poor communication.
The institute's conclusions may not be surprising to anyone who has had to reschedule an appointment because tests results were not available or to repeat a procedure in order to get accurate data. In fact, the group's study found that 20 percent of patients experienced the former and 25 percent the latter.
But the sheer volume of waste -- a staggering sum equivalent to nearly 30 cents on every dollar spent on medical care -- demands a comprehensive, detailed response from government officials, health professionals and the public. As a nation, we can't afford to keep throwing that much money away.
The institute, an independent arm of the National Academy of Sciences, was established in 1970 to provide objective advice to all of those policy makers.
Anyone who wants to reduce the out-of-control costs of health care should follow the institute's prescription for the future: Hospitals, health care organizations, doctors and other providers must use electronic record-keeping to manage patient care and financial information. The medical industry must improve and speed up the process of translating the latest clinical studies into direct care for patients. And input from patients and their families is vital, including discussions of the cost of care. Coordination is key.