Waste not and want not: While that seems like good, practical advice to many people, the slogan has never been featured very prominently in the American health care system. Instead, patients and providers alike in the United States have historically been quite profligate about medical care, even to the point of insisting on tests that would never be used in the health care systems of other, similarly successful countries.
Fortunately, all that is starting to change. Although opinions vary as to just how much wasteful usage accounts for of the trillions of dollars spent on health care every year in the United States, few doubt that it is a significant sum. Even if wasteful health care only amounted to a paltry 1% of all spending in the country every year, in fact, that would still add up to many billions of dollars.
That means that there is clearly a good reason to pursue better targeted, more appropriate health care service usage. What is precision medicine may at first seem like a difficult question to answer, but, in practice, there are often some straightforward and reliable ways of arriving at this goal.
For example, many physicians have become accustomed to ordering expensive tests in a more or less defensive fashion, wanting to please their patients and also be protected against later claims that they overlooked something. While this can be a difficult position to be in, the reality is that those who study data management strategy frequently point out opportunities for disposing of tests that cannot possibly be helpful in a given situation.
Physicians who are armed with such information, it turns out, have a much easier time of convincing their patients that they are still be looked after with the greatest of care. The Real Opportunity of Precision Medicine, then, is that it can empower health care providers to both do their utmost to help their patients and also make sensible decisions with regard to medical costs and other expenses.
By targeting precision medicine as a goal in itself, then, health care organizations can naturally expect to see their resources used in more productive ways. Unfortunately, the fact that resources are always limited is not one that has historically been apparent in the American health care system, but that is starting to change. As more organizations seek to deliver more precisely targeted and specified care to their patients, it is likely that far less in the way of waste and want will become the norm.