May Newsletter Link
The healthcare sector is, in many ways, the most critical part of the United States economy. Putting aside that it is a fundamental part of people’s lives, supporting their health and well-being, it matters because of its economic size and financial impact on people and communities.
We know the statistics. The healthcare economy today:
- employs 11 percent of American workers (Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS] 1980–2019b; Hamilton Project, 2020);
- accounts for 24 percent of government spending (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services [CMS] 1987–2018; Bureau of Economic Analysis 1987–2018);
- is, through health insurance, the most significant component (26 percent) of non-wage compensation (BLS 2019b); and
- is one of the largest consumer spending categories (8.1 percent of consumer expenditures; BLS 2019a).
Related costs have been rising and some of the increase is undesirable (Cutler 2018). Rent-seeking behavior (gaining wealth without any reciprocal contribution of productivity), monopoly power, and other flaws in healthcare markets sometimes result in unnecessary care, excessive and irregular fees and utilization of services, and burdensome, costly administration.
In "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner", Samuel Taylor Coleridge describes the predicament of the cursed sailor as “Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.” Today, in Massachusetts, we have healthcare everywhere with practices, hospitals, clinics, health centers, and near-universal coverage, as costly as it is. Yet, despite this abundance, Massachusetts healthcare is consistently among the most expensive nationwide (according to the Kaiser Family Foundation and others), remains extraordinarily opaque as to pricing and quality, and continues to burden the patient with poor service and excessive administration.
Today, we have an opportunity to reverse this history of high costs and consumer burdens by erecting a 21st-century data system that will empower consumers to make better health decisions using standardized payer and provider data shared directly to the consumer’s device using industry-developed interfaces
We see this need for a 21st-century health data economy everywhere. Today, COVID-19 information management helps regulators more than patients while data systems such as electronic medical records burden clinicians and patients. These systems require enormous amounts of data entry but offer little insight. Privacy and consent remain rooted in the 20th century, hindering the patient’s ability to share what data they want to share with those they want to share it with. This leaves patients and their clinicians incapable of making informed decisions that take clinical, economic, and social factors into account.
At MHDC, we have no intention of wearing an albatross around our necks and walking the world bemoaning the state of healthcare. As you will see in our newsletter, we are changing healthcare in our own small but increasingly influential way. We are the only organization in the country that enables the health community – payers, providers, regulators, patients – to govern their health data from design through exchange.
Now we need to get back to work.
Be safe, and stay well.
Denny Brennan, Executive Director
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