Healthcare in the U.S. represents the largest sector in the largest economy in the world. But its benefits are far from evenly distributed. In particular, improvements in affordability and access to care -- together with better health outcomes and care delivery -- represent critical challenges in achieving efficient, effective and equitable healthcare for all Americans.
Because the U.S. does not have a single 'healthcare system', various populations within the country access healthcare resources through a variety of mechanisms that include Medicaid, private/commercial insurance, the Veterans Health Administration, uninsured/direct-pay, the Indian Health Service and Medicare. Across all of these methods for accessing care, efforts are underway to pursue what is known as the 'triple aim' of U.S. healthcare: improving the experience of care, improving the health of populations, and reducing per capita costs of health care.
Along with improvements in health outcomes and care delivery, gains in access to care and affordability will be essential to achieving the triple aim. 'Access' to care is impacted by a wide range of factors including communication, financial resources, transportation, disability, age, employment, language and culture. 'Affordability' of healthcare presents challenges on least two levels: First, individual patients/consumers face a variety of rising costs such as premiums, deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance and cash requirements (if uninsured or coverage does not apply). Second, affordability is a critical issue at the system level, where the ability of health systems, insurers, state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations and other system-level entities to provide services has been diminished by rising healthcare costs which have outpaced inflation for the past 30 years.
Innovation in medical technology has been referred to as the engine that drives our health care system. It has fueled breakthroughs and expanded treatment options for millions of patients in the U.S. and around the globe. Technology has the potential to deliver advances in health outcomes and care delivery and to drive improvements in access and affordability. But to achieve gains at scale, healthcare innovation must take into account the relationships, constraints and incentives of healthcare providers, government programs at federal, state and local levels, private insurers, suppliers (e.g. drug and device manufacturers) and other key players in our healthcare ecosystem.