Innovation knows no limits

Two of the most basic human features of fear and jealously are invariably the obstacles to technological progress, but ultimately their antiquated objections fall the same way as did the gas lamp and horse drawn carriages. The extremely odd and distinctly ironic observation with clinical medicine, is that it is without question the last sector of commerce to adopt new technologies, despite the fact that medicine is supposed to be a scientifically based discipline. The only explanation that can reasonably given for the shortsighted approach of modern day medicine is the obstructive effects that the politics and business of medicine have on innovation. For lay people to understand this point of pointless friction it is necessary to know that physicians are always under the gun of losing their medical license if something goes wrong regardless of whose fault it is. For example the serial entrepreneur, Richard Branson, recently had one of his Space Galactica ships crash in the New Mexico dessert due to engine malfunction. Immediately Mr. Branson addressed the tragedy for the families and offered his deepest condolences, but made it clear the project would continue and in doing so he demonstrated the true spirit of innovation that today allows man to travel the globe with minimal effort. Sadly had such an incident occurred in medicine in the US the program would have been shut down, the doctors would have been sued and innovation would have been brought to an abrupt halt.

Innovation and innovators are critical to the development of human society and evolution and it is inevitable that deaths will occur during the journey towards elevated levels of technology and civilization. What is important is that people do not forget the modern comforts that surround them and that make their lives vastly more comfortable and safer than those of generations before. But what should not be erased from their memory is that those earlier generations took great risks and often sustained death to advance the technologies that now benefit current generations. Similarly today it should not be forgotten that the current generations have an obligation to continue that trend of discovery and innovation that in some instances is associated with great risk. Life has indeed gotten safer but humans must not forget that death is part of life and when it happens it is all part of the greater scheme, as un-scientific as that sounds.

Medicine has for many centuries been handicapped by the quasi-military hierarchies that plagued the medical schools and post –graduate training programs. These organizational structures hindered the imaginative free flowing thought of innovation and the majority of new medical devices came form the science labs and from the pure scientists and engineers who were unencumbered by the ridiculousness of the academic medical system. Throughout history the innovators have always been the outliers that existed at the intellectual fringe with ideas and concepts most medics considered alien until off course they were shown to actually work.

This problem of innovation and the conditioned mental rigidity of medical students and most doctors I ascribe to the nature not of the person but to the process of medical education which for the most part is simply memorization and regurgitation of fact. There is nothing conceptual or abstract about this very literal process and in my opinion it actually stifles the creative aspects of the medical students mental abilities. The old expression is that ‘medical school takes racehorses and turns them into donkeys’. I find that quite sad and a loss to humanity that medicine has failed to realize this yawning gap in its educational forum and continues to churn out individuals with limited innovative abilities.

To understand this somewhat sad state of affairs one only has to look at the manner in which the foundations of modern medicine began just after the renaissance with an exceptional focus on the anatomy and physiology of the human body and more importantly a firm belief that every part of the body could be tracked and ascribed to every known disease. A whole literature of words and phrases erupted around this new world of medical technology and some of its proponents even went so far as to label themselves ‘professional’ i.e. those in possession of a secret body of knowledge. I believe this was the beginning of the self-delusion that has unfortunately plagued medicine and doctors since their acceptance into society as respectable healers.

Technology has at last brought sense and reason to many areas of human existence allowing the completion of tasks without the unproductive interference of human ego and vanity. Modern medicine is changing to try and adapt to these exponential changes but within ten years the entire face of healthcare will have changed. I predict the use of the word ‘doctor’ will be almost extinct and somewhat comical as robot take over many of both the surgical and non-surgical functions of medicine. Innovative diagnostic tools will allow the early diagnose of a multitude of previously undetected conditions with more successful outcomes and a lower requirement for any invasive procedure. Preventative care will occupy a larger part of the landscape and most amusingly to all of those physicians that fought so bitterly over their little turfs they will find that not only have their turfs been sold to non-physicians but that they as doctors are no longer required because the system now has well trained surgical nurses and robots. But thanks for the ride guys. You were pure unadulterated ego fuelled humor.

Innovation is the key for survival

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