Issue Briefing

The Price Of Medical Technology: Are We Getting What We Pay For?


November 10, 2008 - Washington, D.C.

Download MP3 Audio (101 MB, 01:49:43)
Subscribe Free In iTunes

Laurence C. Baker Slides
Jeffrey C. Lerner Slides
Hal J. Singer Slides
David Nexon Slides


The November/December 2008 issue of Health Affairs explores the boom in medical technology: diagnostic imaging technologies like CT and MRI, and medical devices like implantable cardiac defibrillators. These technologies offer real and indisputable benefits that have saved the lives of countless patients.


At the same time, the growing use of these technologies and the markets that have grown up around them create cause for concern. How many unnecessary scans have resulted from physicians’ desire to make good on their investments in office-based scanning equipment? Medical devices can prop open arteries and replace damaged joints, but are the prices paid by some purchasers inflated by manufacturers’ requirements for price secrecy? Should Congress legislate greater transparency in device markets?


Leading experts tackled these and other questions during a National Press Club briefing on the Health Affairs November/December thematic issue on medical technology. The issue and briefing were supported by grants from the Blue Shield of California Foundation, Medtronic, and Johnson & Johnson.


At the briefing, potential reforms in the device market were discussed and debated by David Nexon of AdvaMed, Jeffrey Lerner of ECRI Institute, and Hal Singer of the Empiris consulting firm. Laurence Baker of Stanford University discussed whether the increase in diagnostic imaging scans has improved outcomes and whether other types of benefits might justify the increased costs associated with imaging technologies.