We Need A Moore’s Law For Medicine

Antonio Regalado | MIT Technology Review | September 3, 2013

Technology is the primary cause of our skyrocketing health-care costs. It could also be the cure.

Moore’s Law predicts that every two years the cost of computing will fall by half. That is why we can be sure that tomorrow’s gadgets will be better, and cheaper, too. But in American hospitals and doctors’ offices, a very different law seems to hold sway: every 13 years, spending on U.S. health care doubles.

Health care accounts for one in five dollars spent in the United States. It’s 17.9 percent of the gross domestic product, up from 4 percent in 1950. And technology has been the main driver of this spending: new drugs that cost more, new tests that find more diseases to treat, new surgical implants and techniques. “Computers make things better and cheaper. In health care, new technology makes things better, but more expensive,” says Jonathan Gruber, an economist at MIT who leads a heath-care group at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Much of the spending has been worth it. While the U.S. spends the most of any country by far, health care is becoming a larger part of nearly every economy. That makes sense. Better medicine is buying longer lives. Yet medical spending is so high in the U.S. that the White House now projects that if it keeps growing, it could, in 25 years, reach a third of the economy and devour 30 percent of the federal budget. [...]