THE USE OF COMPUTERIZED, possibly Web-based, decision-support systems is likely to have several benefits, according to Pricewaterhouse Coopers' healthcare trend report "HealthCast 2010: Smaller World, Bigger Expectations.
Despite the support for standard guidelines, the unity ends when the tough questions come up about who develops standards, who pays for their development, how are they applied or are they mandated.
Patients feel comfort in treatment guidelines, but surveys have shown that they want doctors, not government or insurance companies, to formulate those guidelines.
One big question is how standardization will alter the industry's compensation models. Will it move healthcare to commodity pricing? Maybe not, but doctors predict there will be a demystification of what is medicine,
The combination of standarization and empowered consumers could be very powerful. Once patients understand more of the details of their case, they may shop around for a better value, the PwC report notes. "This is bound to hurt low-quality providers, but could enable high-quality providers to charge more," PwC states.
This is already happening in other areas, such as higher education. Published rankings of colleges, which have flourished in recent years, spur demand for the top-rated colleges and allow them to increase tuition; while the lower ranked ones may not be able to raise tuition as much as they would have liked because of lower demand.
Empowered consumers will demand to know more about the treatments proposed for them, their effectiveness and the track record of the medical team offering the treatment, PwC predicts. This will accelerate the demand for the standardization of health processes despite resistance from some doctors to "cookbook medicine." Governments, health purchasers and insurers will also support standardization because without common platforms and benchmarks, inefficiency and costs will continue unchecked. That's why the 21s century will abound with new rules, protocols, and care paths aimed at the overuse, underuse and misuse in healthcare processes.
Common computer interfaces in use in other industries will lead to a more connected world in which health data can be exchanged, measured and updated.