This is co-posted with Medicine in the Moment.
Medical innovation is leaning, if not teetering, on the brink of a culture of “cool”. Yet, investment in brilliantly practical, infinitely useful and often simple innovations that hold the potential to improve global healthcare has been no match for wow-factor technologies.
Brain cells from urine. Artificial lung tissue grown with magnetic levitation. 3D printed organs, implants and bone. Headline-hoggers like these have flash and build excitement around the potential to address every possible health condition. Yet, reading about these (or, perhaps, not reading about other types of innovation) brings the Pareto Rule—that is, the 80/20 Rule—to mind.
So we must ask: if 20% of medical innovation is vital on a global scale, and 80% of innovation has narrow reach in terms of population health, isn’t it our duty as people who have vowed to save lives and proliferate health, to promote the use of tools that can make the biggest impact? More importantly, where is the moral center for health technology investment, and how can we make not just the technology itself, but the use of the technology, a part of the conversation?
These questions are not an indictment of innovation. (It sometimes happens that the narrowest breakthroughs are the catalysts for widely applicable change.) All innovation is important, and necessary, and should continue. Yet, our discussions about medical innovation reflect our values, and we as an industry may be overly focused on what science can almost do, rather than what people should do and are doing with the technology already available. Futuristic medical innovation is important, but the healthcare community would benefit from knowing more about what technologies can be used to help patients, now.
This means shedding light on the unsung heroes of medical innovation—and there are many—making a difference in healthcare today. From consumer-facing apps—like CPR & Choking, a free smartphone app that shows brief instructional videos for how to help infants, children and adults breathe in an emergency, to clinician-facing apps like Omnio—which allows HCPs to centralize and organize medical resources on smart devices that can be used in clinic to provide higher quality care—lives are already being saved. Other solutions—like Text to Change, which develops customized mobile phone-based solutions to facilitate interactions with people in emerging countries—have produced great outcomes in the healthcare space amid broader focus.
Yet, to amplify knowledge and multiply usage of solutions such as these, we must focus first on context—on motivating HCPs and other healthcare community members to comprehend existing successes and integrate ready solutions into their own work flows. We have not only an opportunity, but a duty, to inspire the community to become meaningful, active users of current medical technology, rather than mere spectators of far-out innovation.
Author: Donato Tramuto, CEO & Chairman, Physicians Interactive
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