A Complex Systems Science Approach to Healthcare Costs and Quality in the USA


Bar-Yam and colleagues at the New England Complex Systems Institute just released a set of papers that are very timely, given the recent Supreme Court Decision in the United States to uphold and support the much needed Obama Health Care Plan.  As argued in the papers, the ultimate issue in the United States Health Care System is really a very complex health-system-market that needs to be managed from a complexity science perspective.  CLICK HERE to see papers.

Here is the abstract from one of their papers:
There is a mounting crisis in delivering affordable healthcare in the US. For decades, key decision makers in the public and private sectors have considered cost-effectiveness in healthcare a top priority. Their actions have focused on putting a limit on fees, services, or care options. However, they have met with limited success as costs have increased rapidly while the quality isn't commensurate with the high costs. A new approach is needed. Here we provide eight scientifically-based steps for improving the healthcare system. The core of the approach is promoting the best use of resources by matching the people and organization to the tasks they are good at, and providing the right incentive structure. Harnessing costs need not mean sacrificing quality. Quality service and low costs can be achieved by making sure the right people and the right organizations deliver services. As an example, the frequent use of emergency rooms for non-emergency care demonstrates the waste of resources of highly capable individuals and facilities resulting in high costs and ineffective care. Neither free markets nor managed care guarantees the best use of resources. A different oversight system is needed to promote the right incentives. Unlike managed care, effective oversight must not interfere with the performance of care. Otherwise, cost control only makes care more cumbersome. The eight steps we propose are designed to dramatically improve the effectiveness of the healthcare system, both for those who receive services and those who provide them.

 These are must read papers for those, like myself, involved in the application of complexity science to health and health care issues.