As Your Medical Care Advances, Is There a Price?

Great strides present new challenges

nurse typing on keyboard

By: Toby Cosgrove, MD

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In many ways, the rising cost of healthcare is the price of a job well done.

American medicine has made astonishing strides over the past 50 years. It’s given people longer, better lives. Training, research and technology advancements have enabled us to lengthen the average person’s life by nearly a decade. We’ve also improved quality of life for people, not only as they age but also as they deal with illness or injury.

While this is all heartening news, none of these advancements has come cheap. It’s true that sixty years ago, healthcare costs were much lower, but no one is calling for a return to 1950s medicine.

Cosgrove Book bannerWe want you to speak up, ask questions, and tell us if you don’t understand something. If you’re facing a major medical procedure, you should consider getting a second opinion; your doctor won’t be offended, because the team is working together for you and with you. We have one goal: To get you better.

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Cardiac surgery advances

We can really see healthcare advancements when we look at the field of cardiac surgery.

Sixty years ago, there was little anyone could do about heart disease. Surgeons would grope their way into a patient’s heart through a small chest incision. They’d use their index finger to poke into a sticky valve. Then, they’d pop it open with a quick thrust.

Cardiac surgery grew more sophisticated through the 1960s and 70s. And likewise, mortality, once in the range of 20 percent, dropped dramatically. Today, we have achieved 0 percent mortality for some mitral valve procedures at Cleveland Clinic. We’ve also achieved 1.3 percent mortality for cardiac surgery overall. I’m proud to say this is the lowest in the nation.

Medical imaging

Advances in all types of medical imaging are helping us to diagnose and treat more conditions. This includes everything from aortic aneurysms to lung and kidney cancers. We can find these problems sooner and treat them more effectively than ever.

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High-tech imaging modalities not only assist us in diagnosing disease, they are also used intraoperatively to guide instruments in the next generation of minimally invasive surgeries.

While it is easy to overutilize CT, MRI and PET scanning, no one wants to unplug these expensive machines. We can’t imagine going without the priceless information they provide.

American healthcare is outstanding in what it offers. There’s also a growing demand. However, healthcare costs have gotten out of control. We have to find ways to lower the cost of healthcare without sacrificing the quality.

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