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April 4, 1990

High-Tech Medicine and Rising Health Care Costs

JAMA. 1990;263(13):1820-1822. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03440130108035

SINCE the early 1970s the United States has pursued multiple strategies aimed at moderating the increases in its annual health care expenditures. In the search for causes and cures of health care inflation, high-tech medicine (HTM) is identified increasingly as the major culprit responsible for our steeply rising health care costs.

To illuminate the issue, this article offers an operational definition of the term HTM, examines the supporting arguments for the claim that HTM is the principal propellant of escalating health care costs and that it is often counterproductive, reviews the role of public policy in speeding the growth of HTM, and concludes with some forecasts about the probable impact of HTM on future US health care costs.

High-tech medicine may be defined simply and comprehensively as the sum of all the advances in medical knowledge and technique that have been translated into improved diagnostic, therapeutic, and rehabilitative procedures during