About 30% of health spending in 2009 — roughly $750 billion – was wasted on unnecessary services, excessive administrative costs, fraud, and other problems, reported a committee from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in a new study.

The new IOM report, titled Best Care at Lower Cost: The Path to Continuously Learning Health Care in America, aims to build on the 1999 study and other blueprints for progress from the IOM.

For all the dramatic advances in biomedical knowledge, drugs, and procedures, the healthcare industry lags behind other industries in terms of operating smarts, the new IOM report says. “If banking were like healthcare, automated teller machine (ATM) transactions would not take seconds but perhaps days or longer as a result of unavailable or misplaced records.”

According to the committee, about 75 million Americans have more than one chronic condition, requiring coordination among multiple specialists and therapies, which can increase the potential for miscommunication, misdiagnosis, potentially conflicting interventions, and dangerous drug interactions.

Health professionals and patients frequently lack relevant and useful information at the point of care where decisions are made. And it can take years for new breakthroughs to gain widespread adoption; for example, it took 13 years for the use of beta blockers to become standard practice after they were shown to improve survival rates for heart attack victims.
A healthcare system envisioned by the IOM, has the following characteristics:

Mobile technologies and electronic health records offer significant potential to capture and share health data better. Clinicians and care organizations should fully adopt these technologies, and patients should be encouraged to use tools, such as personal health information portals, to actively engage in their care.
Healthcare organizations should embrace new tools to gather and assess patients’ perspectives and use the information to improve delivery of care. Health care product developers should create tools that assist people in managing their health and communicating with their providers.
Increased transparency about the costs and outcomes of care boosts opportunities to learn and improve and should be a hallmark of institutions’ organizational cultures.
Linking providers’ performance to patient outcomes and measuring performance against internal and external benchmarks allows organizations to enhance their quality and become better stewards of limited resources, the report says.
Managers should ensure that their institutions foster teamwork, staff empowerment, and open communication.

Physician’s Weekly wants to know… does that initial figure of $750 billion surprise you?