The Affordable Care Act, and, indeed, the entire U.S. healthcare system, is creaking under the burden of high and rising costs. But private sector healthcare innovation continues to provide glimmers of hope that costs can ultimately be brought under control through new technologies and delivery methods. The Financial Times reports:
US researchers have developed what they say is the world’s first surgical robot that can outperform human surgeons when operating autonomously on soft tissues such as intestines, paving the way for clinical trials.
The team at Children’s National Health System in Washington DC compared its new Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot, or Star, with expert surgeons using the best manual techniques and robot-assisted systems.
The information revolution has dramatically reduced the costs associated with many of the goods and services Americans consume, but that technology dividend has yet to manifest itself in the healthcare and education sectors (in part because these these sectors, understandably, face some of the highest regulatory barriers). But even these areas will not be able to remain insulated from technological earthquake reshaping the rest of the economy indefinitely. Within the next decade, it’s plausible that an array of technology-enabled reforms—from telemedicine, to mobile clinics, to behavior modifications, to new surgical machines—will start to bend the cost curve downward in a sustainable way, and contain the growth of premiums and deductibles.
The biggest challenge facing our healthcare system is, and has been for decades, that care is too expensive. One of the oversights of Obama-era health reformers is that they prioritized increasing access, rather than lowering costs—insufficiently attentive to the fact that, in the long run, affordability is access. Subsequent changes to our healthcare system should have a laser-like focus on reducing the cost of care—by lowering outdated regulatory barriers, investing in basic research, and encouraging cheaper forms of delivery. But the most promising avenues for reducing costs lie outside the purview of the federal bureaucracy. The final burden for reimagining our healthcare system will depend on the ingenuity of the American people.