Health Care: Could More Data Lower Costs?

Jun 20, 2019

If you've noticed your health care costs going up, you're not alone. Even some members of the medical community say they're concerned about rising costs, and hope more data will lead to less expensive options, or at least smaller price hikes. 

The most basic medical moment — when patient and health care provider are discussing solutions — is too often under stress, says Linda Syth. She's of the Wisconsin Medical Society and was at a health care conference in Green Bay Wednesday.

“That personal experience is really surrounded by the stress of costs. Whether it be the physical cost, the mental cost, or the hard dollar cost of the medical system as it is today," Syth told the audience.

The Wisconsin Health Information Organization is a public-private partnership of health care providers, insurance companies and government agencies. CEO Dana Richardson says the cost increase is especially evident with rising deductibles. She says people with chronic diseases like diabetes or asthma have it the toughest.

"Because your costs are going to be spread out over time. So, you are always going to be paying a good portion of that cost. So, how can you be cost effective? How do you make choices? Where do you get information to help you make better choices, and cost has to become one of the factors in your choices," Richardson told WUWM.

Richardson says it's good that patients can now get more information about past care and about the price of treatment options.

Aneesh Chopra, who served as U.S. chief technology officer during the Obama administration, says that more data are also coming together on where health care delivery is inefficient.

"Doing it better, actually lowers the cost. We don't have this terrible trade-off where better means we somehow have to ration it. Better is cheaper," Chopra said.

A panel at the OnRamp conference discusses the state of health care.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

The Green Bay event was hosted by the startup accelerator gener8tor, the Wisconsin Medical Society and the insurance firm WisMed Assure. The conference was mainly aimed at startup companies, including those that may be developing computer apps that help providers sort through data, or give consumers more access to information through devices like a smart phone. 

Richardson, of the Health Information Organization says more timely data for the public are coming, eventually.

"They need to be able to pull out their phone, pull it up on an app, and get the information they need. I think we're headed there. But, I think we've still got a bit of a hill to climb before we're going to get to that point."

Richardson says the federal government is starting to require more sharing of health care data. But she contends patient privacy is not at risk, comparing the technology to the relative security of online banking.

Support is provided by Dr. Lawrence and Mrs. Hannah Goodman for Innovation reporting.

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