Rapidly changing medical technology and availability of high technology diagnostic and therapeutic equipment together with changing practice pattern of doctors has revolutionized the way health care is being delivered today. Without doubt, medical technology is indispensable for people’s health and better quality of life in some areas; and contributes billions of dollars to the economy. Some would go so far to say that the practice of medicine these days is inherently dependent upon health technology. This is probably based on the observations that clinicians use a wide variety of technologies in diagnosing, treating and assessing the care of their patients.
Today’s medical technology is more advanced, more effective, and in many cases, more costly than ever before. Furthermore there is an ever increasing demand for high technology diagnostic and therapeutic health care facilities and their availability may come into conflict with medical necessity, social justice and cost effectiveness. There is increasing pressure on health care resources that is driving more explicit and public decisions regarding the best use of these resources. The complexity of modern technology and its high marginal cost suggest to us that testimonial reviews of new technologies are no longer sufficient.1 Current trends in health care decision making favour a transition from a rationale based primarily on resources and opinion to a rationale derived from research. In developing a new health care technology it is important to recognize its potential impact.
The important question would be whether the new technology provides information that was not previously available and the new information may result in the cure of a common and otherwise fatal disease. Technology assessment helps physician by determining which technologies are most apt to benefit the patient, allowing the physician to recommend a prudent course of action. Technology assessment should encourage skepticism of new technology, causing the clinician to be more rigorous about accepting the latest invention. It will substantially contribute to better utilization of the scare health care resources.2 Demands for increased productivity despite cuts in financial resources have renewed the discussion of cost effectiveness in medical care. Important parameters that should be considered include the incidence and prevalence of the disease, the cost and success of treatment, the cost and success of diagnosis, and the cost and success of preventive treatment. One fundamental issue of health care economics is the study of cost versus benefit analysis.
It is often difficult to place a dollar value on a person’s life, as is commonly done in the courtroom. Any new technology, process, innovation or product will have a certain level of risk associated with it as, contrary to the wistful utterances of many politicians, there are no such thing as ‘zero risk’. In fact there can be no innovation at all without an element of risk. Medical technology industry’s point of view is that they have to identify the appropriate hazards for a product or process, estimate the risks associated with them, reduce risks by appropriate risk control measures in an iterative process, taking care that we do not inadvertently introduce new risks by such actions, and consider the overall residual risks remaining after risk control measures have been implemented. The decision on the acceptability of that residual risk must take into account the benefit to the patient. Three examples are provided to exemplify the complex issues of advances made in medical technology in the last few decades and to the extent in which their benefits have outweighted their cost.
So the conclusion is that the growth in health care technology is ubiquitous and has far reaching consequences both for users and providers. Technological assessment with respect to this benefit and cost aspects has been evaluated, but still requires much work in detail. Future progress depends on today’s investment in research, development, and education. We cannot leave such urgent issues to determine themselves but rather must actively collaborate to ensure a stable healthcare system. Technology is moving forward so rapidly that the rest of the world (developing countries) may not be able catch up. Will peoples still have fast access to innovative medial technologies in the future? Despite the high costs and complexity of medical technology, the use of new technology continues to spread.
The benefits of medical advancements outweigh their drawbacks. Expensive technology is a bargain if it can improve quality of life, preserve economic productivity and prevent the high cost of disability.