More data sharing lowers healthcare costs

April 19, 2012 at 6:56 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 19 (UPI) -- One way to reduce the U.S. healthcare cost inflation is to leverage the health data currently "locked in" doctor's offices and hospitals, researchers say.

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation released a report at the annual Health Care Forum in Washington that focused on improving the cost-benefit balance in U.S. healthcare via open access to medical data.

"Rather than look for a 'one-shot-fix' solution, the task force focused on incremental reforms that cumulatively can both reduce costs and enhance the value of health care delivered to Americans, regardless of whether and how the Affordable Care Act is implemented," Robert Litan, vice president of research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation said in a statement. "The underlying thread to the recommendations is leveraging big medical data."

The report recommended encouraging data sharing among research centers, medical offices, pharmaceutical companies, insurance firms and others -- and incentivizing a new corps of data entrepreneurs to collect and analyze existing medical data to discover and then disseminate new therapies.

"Using proper safeguards, we need to open the information that is locked in medical offices, hospitals and the files of pharmaceutical and insurance companies," said report author John Wilbanks, a Kauffman senior fellow. "For example, combining larger data sets on drug response with genomic data on patients could steer therapies to the people they are most likely to help. This could substantially reduce the need for trial-and-error medicine, with all its discomforts, high costs and sometimes tragically wrong guesses."

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