The medical profession has become a little too dependent on big, expensive labs and big, complex testing to keep it competitive.
The latest figures from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that, as of April, the number of labs in the U.S. that are at least two years old and at least five years old has reached 7,600.
That’s up from 6,100 in 2014.
(The latest numbers were compiled from reports submitted to the CMS last fall and the data is subject to change.
The numbers for the current year were collected in July and August.)
The data also shows that the number and number of tests being done at hospitals is falling, with the number per capita of tests going down.
In the same period, the overall number of patients who needed a test dropped to 2.6 million.
These figures aren’t surprising given that hospitals have been shrinking since the Great Recession.
But they underscore the problem for the medical profession, which is facing a crisis of its own making.
“We’re in a situation where it’s a lot more expensive to perform an actual medical test than it was 30 years ago, which means the people who need those tests are more expensive, too,” says Dr. Andrew Weisbrot, a medical geneticist and chief of the division of genetics at the University of Michigan.
That means the medical community is being driven by large labs that need to be maintained for the long term, and they’re spending a lot of money to do so.
And there are now two primary ways to make money off of tests that are not very expensive to run: to license them for use in the private sector, and to pay for the test itself.
“I’m not saying that the costs of this are low,” Weisbrot says.
“The problem is that we’re not investing in our own testing.”
This is especially true for tests that can be easily and cheaply duplicated, because a single test can cost $100,000, according to Weisbrook.
And since most medical tests are used for a wide range of conditions, there are lots of people who have to have one.
The costs are especially high for tests for cancers.
The number of test centers has doubled in the last 20 years, from 4,000 in 2000 to almost 6,000 today.
And the number is expected to increase as more testing is done on patients with complex and potentially life-threatening illnesses.
But the problem is not only for tests; many other tests are also being tested at hospitals, including blood tests, CT scans, mammograms, X-rays, and more.
“You’re seeing that all of these things are being performed at hospitals,” says Robert Wiedefeld, a physician who has spent nearly 30 years in the medical industry.
He points to a recent study that showed that the annual growth rate for tests and procedures at hospitals and clinics has more than doubled since 2000.
As a result, it’s difficult to say how much money will be saved if more tests are produced at hospitals.
And that doesn’t even take into account the costs that are passed on to patients who don’t get the tests.
The new CMS data shows that, over the last five years, the average cost of testing for a hospital-associated cancer has increased by $20,000 for a patient in the first year after diagnosis, and by $3,200 for a year later.
For a patient with multiple types of cancer, the price tag has increased over the same time period by about $25,000.
The growth in testing costs is especially troubling because, in a growing medical field, the costs are often driven by the number, not the quality.
“There’s an assumption that you can test all the time, and you can do the right tests,” says Wiedeffel.
“But in many ways, if you do one wrong test, you’re going to be stuck in a loop.”
The data shows, for example, that a test that’s not being used on patients in the hospital can cost more than $40,000 to perform, and one that’s used on a patient who has multiple types is $70,000 or more.
That puts a lot on the shoulders of patients in a crowded, expensive environment.
For that reason, hospitals have shifted to using cheaper tests to speed up the process.
“This is one of the most expensive tests you can perform and you’re just going to pay the cost,” says Weisbruts.
“And if you don’t do it right, you can get sued for violating the HIPAA.”
There’s no reason for hospitals to have to pay these extra costs for a test they’ve already paid for and which is used on someone else.
But hospitals are also looking to the private market to make up the gap.
They’re looking to develop cheaper tests that, for instance, could cost $300 to $500.
And this is where they’re facing a problem.
In 2014, the CMS said