High and rising health care costs. Part 4: can costs be controlled while preserving quality?

Ann Intern Med. 2005 Jul 5;143(1):26-31. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-143-1-200507050-00007.


Several interrelated strategies involving physician leadership and participation have been proposed to contain health care costs while preserving or improving quality. These include programs targeting the 10% of the population that incurs 70% of health care expenditures, disease management programs to prevent costly complications of chronic conditions, efforts to reduce medical errors, the strengthening of primary care practice, decision support tools to avoid inappropriate services, and improved diffusion of technology assessment. An example of a cost-reducing, quality-enhancing program is post-hospital nurse monitoring and intervention for patients at high risk for repeated hospitalization for congestive heart failure. Disease management programs that target groups with a chronic condition rather than focusing efforts on high-utilizing individuals may be effective in improving quality but may not reduce costs. Error reduction has great potential to improve quality while reducing costs, although the probable cost reduction is a small portion of national health care expenditures. Access to primary care has been shown to correlate with reduced hospital use while preserving quality. Inappropriate care and overuse of new technologies can be reduced through shared decision-making between well-informed physicians and patients. Physicians have a central role to play in fostering these quality-enhancing strategies that can help to slow the growth of health care expenditures.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care / economics
  • Cost Control
  • Delivery of Health Care / economics*
  • Delivery of Health Care / standards*
  • Disease Management
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / economics
  • Hospitalization / economics
  • Medical Errors / prevention & control
  • Physician's Role*
  • Primary Health Care / economics
  • Quality of Health Care / economics*
  • United States
  • Unnecessary Procedures / economics