Rising health care costs due to technology

Rising health care costs are primarily driven by technological change (accounting for 50-75% of growth in costs) rather than other commonly perceived factors such as an ageing population (accounting for less than 10% of cost growth), according to WHO research.

Although ageing does not escalate health care costs as much as technological changes, or indeed income growth and people’s growing expectations, ageing will affect health care in coming years as a smaller share of the total population will be economically active, and contributing financially to the health care costs of an expanding older group.

Speaking at a conference in Geneva yesterday, on the future of health care in Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, described the changing economic, demographic, technological and social factors that affect health in Europe now, and in the future.

Ms Jakab emphasized that people’s expectations in terms of health care, have changed. Citizens want to be more involved in their own health, including when decisions are made on disease management and treatment. Yet the large inequities in health across the WHO European Region also indicate that many people need to be empowered – to have the material, educational and political means to realize their right to health.

In the face of growing cost and efficiency pressures on health care provision, Zsuzsanna Jakab argued that societies must retain their values and commitment to social justice and equity.

Ms Jakab was guest speaker at “The Economist” Conference on ‘The future of health care in Europe’ in Geneva, Switzerland, 17 March 2011.