List of ways to improve health outcomes (other than through drug development) independent of patents

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Complementing List of ways to improve drug discovery, development, and delivery independent of patents

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Free software in medical devices and systems

Increase security, decrease bad incentives, lock-in, and cost

Fundamental research

For example, on aging as a disease.

Increase physical activity

Inactivity is a major health problem, activity has long-lasting benefits

Increase primary care

The Heroism of Incremental Care contrasts generalist (low paid) long-term and incremental care with highly paid invasive specialist interventions, but the contrast could also be made with high-priced drugs.

Informed patients

Correcting problems briefly described in Informed Patient? Don’t Bet On It relates to several other interventions mentioned here – informed patients (and processes triggered by needing to inform them) might help prevent use of unnecessary tests and treatment and reallocate wasteful health care spending. One of the benefits of increasing primary care seems to be better communication with patients.

More cooperation among regulators

Effectively increasing resources, see more resources for regulators below.

More physicians

More would-be competent doctors want to be doctors than are able to due to guild-like restrictions. Makes medical care more expensive (a negative tradeoff for everything else) and directly impacts primary care availability and physician fatigue.

More resources for regulators

The US FDA can increase costs by imposing delays, but better resourced regulators could do more to ensure efficacy and efficiency.

Public health

Responsible for much of increased life expectancy over last century, though public opinion thinks 80% attributable to medical technology. Mentioned at end of When Evidence Says No, but Doctors Say Yes, more specific references needed.

Prevent crashes

Traffic fatalities in the US alone about 40k/year, much lower per population in much of west, much higher in some other parts of the world. Easily improved by lowering traffic speeds, favoring pedestrians. Could be nearly eliminated by banning human drivers.

Prevent violence

Various anti-crime interventions, don’t start wars.

Prevent use of unnecessary tests and treatment

Many tests and treatments don’t have good evidence, have been disproven, or have more net harm than benefit. See the Right Care Alliance and Right Care Declaration and Producing the right health care: Reducing low-value care and adverse events.

Reduce medical error

Medical error is the third leading cause of death in the US at 250k deaths/year, and that is probably an underestimate.

Reduce physician fatigue

Blog post Fatigued Physicians Make Mistakes and Harm Patients has references. Would reduce medical error, at least.

Reallocate wasteful health care spending

To anything producing better health outcomes. OECD report Tackling Wasteful Spending on Health (blog review) has numerous suggestions.

Stop intimidation of health researchers

Drug and other vendors file lawsuits against researchers.

Stop vendor kickbacks

In some cases intermediary purchasers (such as Group Purchasing Organizations; ex) make their fees from vendors, resulting in a system of effective kickbacks which blocks entry from innovative vendors.

Tax drug ads

Tax sin, stop subsidizing sin

For example, sugar.

Upstream interventions

Such as subsidized housing may have larger positive health outcome impacts than direct spending on healthcare.


Environments that encourage people to use their own bodies to move produce better health indicators.

"Collaborative Innovation [Network]"
#2 is a somewhat similar list, in that it has 14 ideas to improve long-term health, some “upstream”, no mention of patents, and the only mention of drug development amounts to a critique:

With the Foresight Fund, we could move beyond making small, near-term bets—company by company and drug by drug—to investments that transform the innovation ecosystem.


Article about treatment at age 96 of Right Care Alliance founder Bernard Lown (see Prevent use of unnecessary tests and treatment in list) advocating for re-focusing on healing rather than treatment and in closing several other list items:

Finally, hospitals should be a last resort, not the hallmark of the health care system. The bulk of health care resources should go instead into homes and communities. After all, a large majority of health problems are shaped by nonmedical factors like pollution and limited access to healthy food. Doctors must partner with public health and community development efforts to create a culture of health and well-being in patients’ daily lives.