KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Report Examines How Medical Technology Changes State of Health Care

Federal researchers Wednesday released a report that examines how medical technology is changing the state of health care.

USA Today: "A boom in medical technology over the past decade or two has led to a surge in certain medical tests and increased prescription drug use, say authors of a report that provides a snapshot of Americans' health today. Imaging, assisted reproductive technologies, prescription drugs and knee replacements have all seen a dramatic rise since the early '90s, says Amy Bernstein, the report's lead author, a health scientist for the National Center for Health Statistics. ... The report, which includes a section on health technology, showed the rise of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs; a rise in imaging technology including MRI and CT/PET; knee replacements; diabetes medicines; kidney transplants; and liver transplants (Marcus, 2/17).

BusinessWeek/HealthDay: "Surging use of improved medical technology, including new drugs, is driving up life expectancy for Americans and driving down rates of major killers such as heart disease and cancer, a new national health report finds. ... Although Americans are living longer than ever before -- 77.9 years on average," there are other key health indicators that are not changing, such as the amount of exercise people have or obesity levels. "Obesity has doubled over the past three decades, from 15 percent of adults in 1976 to 35 percent by 2006, according to the report. As of 2006, 15 to 18 percent of school-age children and adolescents were overweight."

The report also found: "Americans' use of medications has tripled, with 47 percent of U.S. residents now taking at least one prescription drug. Half of adults older than 45 take diabetes medications, and 10 times as many people took cholesterol-lowering drugs from 2003 to 2006 as took the drugs from 1988 to 1994" (Reinberg, 2/17).

CBS News: "'More is not always better. These technologies can offer benefit but too much of them can certainly lead to harm,' said Dr. Elliot Fisher, director of population health and policy at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice." The report finds that the increase use of CT scans, PET scans and MRIs has led to earlier diagnoses but "an estimated 35 percent of scans are unnecessary, often leading to radiation exposure and more tests" (LaPook, 2/17).

The Associated Press/The Boston Globe: "The scans are expensive -- a single CAT scan can cost $500 to $1,000, and MRIs and PET scans can be much more expensive. The federal Medicare program has been trying to hold down imaging costs since its annual bill reached $12 billion" (Stobbe, 2/18).

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