Research in Progress (RIP): "Are the high costs of US medical technology justified by improved health outcomes?"



Robert Kaplan

Date and Time

February 17, 2016 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

FSI Contact

Nicole Feldman

Please note: All research in progress seminars are off-the-record. Any information about methodology and/or results are embargoed until publication.


Using modeling methodologies, at least three groups have suggested that the high expense of US healthcare is justified by the systematic increase in US life expectancy over the last 60 years. Papers describing these models are frequently cited in both the academic literature and in policy briefs. In this analysis, assumptions underlying the three models are linked to recent systematic literature reviews. Using estimates based on recent RCTs, the models are reconstructed and subjected to sensitivity analysis. The results suggest that the benefits of high-technology interventions have been overestimated, while the effects of social and behavioral factors, including cigarette smoking cessation, may have been underestimated. The analysis is highly sensitive to assumptions about the percentage of variance in outcomes attributable to medical technology.


Robert M. Kaplan, is currently a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, where he works with Stanford’s Clinical Excellence Research Center (CERC). He has served as Chief Science Officer at the US Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ) and Associate Director of the National Institutes of Health, where he led the behavioral and social sciences programs.  He was formerly Distinguished Professor of Health Services and Medicine at UCLA, where he led the UCLA/RAND AHRQ health services training program and the UCLA/RAND CDC Prevention Research Center. He was Chair of the Department of Health Services from 2004 to 2009.  From 1997 to 2004 he was Professor and Chair of the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, at the University of California, San Diego. He is a past President of several organizations, including the American Psychological Association Division of Health Psychology, Section J of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (Pacific), the International Society for Quality of Life Research, the Society for Behavioral Medicine, and the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research. Kaplan is a former Editor-in-Chief of Health Psychology and of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.  His 20 books and over 500 articles or chapters have been cited more than 28,000 times and the ISI includes him in the listing of the most cited authors in his field (defined as above the 99.5th percentile). Kaplan is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine).