In his commentary for Chain Drug Review, NPC Interim President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Dubois, MD, PhD, explores the steps we can take to improve our current health care system in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. To do this successfully, Dr. Dubois says that we need to focus on three key elements: appropriately managing health care spending, addressing patients’ concerns about costs and access to treatments, and providing incentives for sustained innovation.
To begin with, Dr. Dubois contends that when it comes to health spending, we need to look at all health expenditures, not just spending on medications or their prices. He cites a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study that showed prescription medicines make up only about 17% of health care spending in the United States, with the rest of the money mostly going to health care providers and inpatient and outpatient services. Other studies have shown that focusing solely on drug prices won’t dramatically change health spending, but it would chill the innovations that are contributing significantly to improvements in patient health outcomes.
Dr. Dubois also argues that we need to put patients’ needs front and center, and measure value by understanding what is truly important for the patient. To that end, we must ensure that patients do not have to shoulder the burden of containing the costs of health care. He points to several studies that show how out-of-pocket costs such as high deductibles, co-pays and insurance premiums lead to poor patient health by deterring patients from getting medical treatments, and put families in difficult financial situations.
In addition, Dr. Dubois maintains that new medications and medical breakthroughs are only possible through continued innovation, coupled with incentives to sustainably reward that innovation, as well as analytical tools that demonstrate the impact of real-world evidence on improved patient care.