Rapid Pace of Medical Advances—and Rising Utilization

Medical knowledge has been expanding exponentially during the last two or three decades. By some estimates, the body of medical knowledge doubles every five to seven years. Some factors that have contributed to this expansion:

  1. Investment in medical research. The research sector in healthcare has expanded dramatically, as universities and private companies increased investment in research. There are many more medical researchers at work today compared to 20 or 30 years ago, and competition and potential economic windfalls are urging them forward.
  2. The computer revolution. New computer-based tools allow researchers to collect and analyze data to a degree that just wasn't possible 20 years ago.
  3. Scientific breakthroughs. One success often opens the door to other successes. Breakthroughs in our understanding of biochemical processes, cellular biology, genetics, and other areas have created vast new fields of opportunity.

Physicians can do so much more for patients today than they could even five years ago, utilizing and building on advances in diagnostic technologies, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and medical procedures. It's changed the way we deliver care, and we see it in a number of areas.

One example which demonstrates this occurrence is the decline of inpatient procedures and the boom in outpatient procedures. Although inpatient admissions have increased slightly, the number of days inpatients stayed in the hospital has dropped slightly. However, outpatient visits during the same period have dramatically increased.

Intermountain's experience is typical of national trends.

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