Valuing Health Care: Improving Productivity and Quality

Cost trends in U.S. health care consistently increase at about 2.5 percentage points faster than the general rate of inflation – clearly an unsustainable rate. To address what it called "America's most urgent public policy problem," the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation released a report that focuses on improving the cost-benefit balance in American health care through open access to medical data.

The report, "Valuing Health Care: Improving Productivity and Quality,"  is based on the recommendations of 31 experts from related fields, whom the Kauffman Foundation convened to reframe thinking around the question, "How can the productivity and value of American health care be increased, in both the short-term and long-term?"

While acknowledging that there's no shortage of reports and recommendations for health care reform, the task force took a unique approach to tackling health care value and productivity challenges.

Specifically, the report recommends:

  • Unleashing the power of information by breaking down silos and encouraging data sharing between research centers, medical offices, pharmaceutical companies, insurance firms and others; and that a new corps of data entrepreneurs be incentivized to collect and analyze existing medical data to discover and then disseminate new therapies.
  • Funding more translational, cross-cutting research, with larger average grants made available to larger teams, many of them with participants from multiple institutions; and requiring collaboration across research institutions.
  • Reforming medical malpractice systems to streamline new drug approvals and remove counter-productive restrictions on health insurance premiums.
  • Empowering patients by, among other means, providing unbiased information on treatment options' benefits and drawbacks, and helping them make choices about the relevant lifestyle implications and risk-reward tradeoffs.

Further, the task force contends, health care delivery deserves its own national research program, one focused on comparative efficiency research. More efficiency (with acceptable quality guidelines) leads to profitability, and corrects the easy practice of simply passing costs down the health care stream.