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On structural innovation in medicine

Recently I was asked if I thought there was a shift in thinking towards more long-term, structural innovation over the short-term variety. It was an interesting conversation and one that I have many thoughts on which I might explore later, but in short I believe that long-term structural innovation is much more crucial, if less shiny, than that of the short-term kind (which anyone working in advertising will be familiar with), and that it has always been there, just not up front because it’s less sexy as a marketing tool.

In relation to this, I wanted to show this video on how HP has integrated its devices and software into Cambridge University Hospitals in the UK, and is reducing the time needed for treatment and consequently the outcome for a lot of patients, simultaneously making the hospital staff more productive and efficient. I have had the opportunity recently to spend some time in hospitals here in the UK, and the digital capabilities showcased in this video stand out significantly compared to the manual processes most hospitals still use. It may be because I am conditioned to think digitally given what I do, but technology adds a layer of confidence for me when it comes to recording of my data. Humans are prone to error, and while there can and will be no replacement for doctors it simply makes sense for data to be recorded and analysed automatically, to enable doctors and hospitals to focus on diagnosis instead of administration.

In the latest RSA Journal, there is a piece on the relationship between technology and patients by Roger Taylor, founder of healthcare data company Dr. Foster. It talks about a documentary by Mount Sinai Hospital which is worth a watch if you’re interested in medicine, and a white paper by Vinod Khosla [PDF] that has his view, as a technology optimist, of technology in the medical field (likewise). The core thesis of the RSA Journal piece is that it is important to make information available to patients because it engenders trust, and that regulatory institutions need to trust people to do the right thing with their information, even saying that ‘trusting people is not so very risky as it might seem, since, in the main, people trust doctors.’ Of technology in the medical field, it says:

“Technology may be able to do 20, 40, or perhaps even 80% of a doctor’s work, but it will never do the bit that people value most. That puts doctors in a very privileged position. But if that position is used to try and halt access to knowledge, it will ultimately undermine that trust.”

That’s why I think digitisation of information in medicine is important. It creates trust. And ultimately, better patients, better doctors and quicker solutions to illnesses. We all need that.

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