This is not the health care technology we are looking for. At the Upshot, Austin Frakt notes that, historically, new and better health care technologies have tended to make health care more expensive, not less. But that’s because the field favored the development of certain kinds of medtech:
In an insightful paper published in 1991 in the Journal of Economic Literature, Burton Weisbrod distinguished between two types of health care technologies: those that enhance quality at potentially high cost and those that reduce cost without substantially sacrificing quality. Historically, quality-enhancing but cost-increasing innovations were relatively common, particularly before the managed care era of the 1990s. Studies from the 1980s found that when hospitals competed, they tried to outdo each other on high-cost amenities and technologies rather than reduce prices […]History also offers examples of cost-reducing health care technology. Some did not degrade quality. For instance, when Medicare reduced payments for kidney dialysis in the mid-1970s, new equipment emerged that halved treatment time, saving labor costs
One sub-class of cost-reducing medtech that Frakt does not mention are innovations that radically change how we deliver care. Those include remote monitoring systems, for example, that can convey accurate, real-time data to doctors, making it easier to catch diseases before they become more expensive to treat. There’s smartphone apps that lower the cost of some care, and consultations with doctors over services like skype or Google Hangout. Dr. Eric Topol, a leading thinker on digital medtech, outlines many more examples here. Investing in those kinds of technologies, instead of the first class of technologies Frakt outlines, must be at the heart of efforts to bend the health-care cost curve.