In an opinion column about improving the performance of doctors in the United States, a health economist observed that "it's very hard to measure the things we really care about, like quality of life and improvements in functioning "Why is it difficult to measure outcomes like these? Does the economist's observation have relevance to comparisons in health outcomes across countries? Briefly explain.
An article in the Economist on evaluating health outcomes is subtitled "To Improve Health Care, Governments Need to Use the Right Data." Among the data not currently being collected in most countries, the article mentions "how soon after surgery patients get back to work." Why don't governments currently collect such data? Why might such data be important in evaluating the effectiveness of a country's health care system?
Two health care analysts argue that in the United States, "we have arrived at a moment where we are making little headway in defeating various kinds of diseases. Instead, our main achievements today consist of devising ways to marginally extend the lives of the very sick."
a. Should "marginally extending the lives of the very sick" be an important goal of a health care system? What other goals should have a higher priority? (Note: This question is basically a normative one without a definitive correct or incorrect answer. You are being asked to consider what the goals of a health care system should be.)
b. Would it be possible to measure how successful the health care systems of different countries are in extending the lives of the very sick? If so, how might it be done?
(Related to the Making the Connection on page 152 ) An article in the Economist notes that about 10 percent of people in the United States work in health care and that "these workers have the crucial job of making American health care more efficient, probably the country's top domestic challenge.".
a. How might we measure the efficiency of a country's health care sector? Is there evidence that the U.S. health care sector is more or less efficient than the health care sectors in other countries? Briefly explain.
b. If the efficiency of the U.S. health care sector improves, will it be likely to employ more workers or fewer workers than if its efficiency does not improve? Briefly explain.
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