Institute of Medicine says US healthcare system in need of giant overhaul

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) broadly criticized the U.S. healthcare system for "falling short on basic dimensions of basic, outcomes, costs and equity" in spite of massive health innovations over the past half-century.

In a lengthy report out Thursday, the IOM wrote that U.S. medicine wastes roughly $750 billion per year, permits tens of thousands of needless deaths and bungles its mission in ways foreign to other industries.

"Left unchanged, healthcare will continue to underperform, cause unnecessary harm, and strain national, state, and family budgets," the panel wrote. "The actions required to reverse this trend will be notable, substantial, sometimes disruptive — and absolutely necessary."

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The study comes as President Obama and his GOP opponent for the presidency, Mitt Romney, do battle over ways to reform Medicare. Obama's Affordable Care Act, the most dramatic healthcare overhaul in decades, also remains divisive with the public.

But the IOM found that rising healthcare costs and limited access to care are only some of the problems facing the system.

If shopping were like U.S. healthcare, the panel wrote, "product prices would not be posted, and the price charged would vary widely within the same store, depending on the source of payment." Carpenters, electricians and plumbers would be working from different blueprints to build the same home. Airplane pilots would be "free to design [their] own preflight safety check, or not to perform one at all."

The Institute said that U.S. healthcare should take a page from how other industries function. After a series of wide-scale reforms, the report stated, healthcare in the United States could be better, cheaper and more patient-centered.

"Americans should be served by a healthcare system that consistently delivers reliable performance and constantly improves, systematically and seamlessly, with each care experience and transition," the report stated.

At the heart of the IOM's recommendations is the concept of the "continuously learning healthcare system" — a system that would leverage clinical, care delivery process and financial data toward better patient care, incentivize quality and promote transparency.