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Comparative Effectiveness Research–Is Health Care Reform Possible Without It?

October 1, 2009

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Improve health, reduce costs: that’s the mantra health care reform advocates keep repeating. And it’s easy to see why: this year, total health care spending in the United States is expected to reach $2.5 trillion, accounting for almost 18% of the gross domestic product. By 2018 the total could be $4.4 trillion-and because economic growth is expected to be slower over this period, that total may account for one-fifth of the gross domestic product in 2018. And even with all of this spending, the United States lags behind other industrialized nations on many measures of health and well being.

While there are many paths to achieving the twin goals of better outcomes and lower costs, a consensus has been growing among health policy experts and economists that part of the solution is to improve the way medical research is conducted and then put it into practice in both providers’ and consumers’ decision making. Comparative effectiveness research (CER)-a model by which cost-benefit analyses of different treatments for a given condition are compared-provides the means for understanding which interventions yield the best health outcomes for the least amount of money.

Read the rest of the article in the October issue of AJN here. With something so complex, life altering, and expensive as health care, how could we not expect to do a little comparative shopping about cost and quality?

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