Better heart-attack survival rates generally justify increased tech spending, study finds

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In many cases, better survival rates among heart attack patients are a good argument for an increase in healthcare technology spending. But not all the time, a new study finds.

Dartmouth researchers who examined Medicare costs and survival gains for patients with acute myocardial infarction found there was a positive relationship between the two. Between 1986 and 2002, the average one-year survival rate following acute myocardial infarction rose by nearly 10% per 100 elderly patients, at an estimated cost of less than $25,000 per life year saved, the study said.

Overall improvements in survival justified the increases during the period, the authors said. But they offered caveats. After 1996, survival gains stagnated while spending continued to rise. Also, the regions experiencing the largest spending growth did not realize the biggest gains in survival.

The lack of association between costs and patient outcomes suggest that a good approach would be aggressive cost-control policies. These policies would eliminate unnecessary medical care for patients in high-cost regions, they concluded.