Thursday, January 1, 2009

Innovation in Medicine - Farther from the bedside?

In the past few days I have had a few experiences that have caused me to pause and think as 2008 morphs into 2009. One was a screwdriver crumbling during an operative case with no replacement around...and luckily no harm to a patient. The other was a conversation about the development of many implants and surgical tools in the past here in Winnipeg by small, local companies.

Now, I am learning about a specialty that has many innovations that impact the way I will practice. I also completed a business degree so I know that there is a pressure to merge and consolidate many industries to lower costs and improve efficiencies. In fact, that is the goal of many entrepreneurs, be acquired by a larger company!

Now, many companies involve doctors in the development of new medications and devices. I have talked to a physician where I am in residency and he works to develop implants clinically with a major manufacturer and talks to engineers to let them know how the designs could be better. That being said, the history of Winnipeg is that implants could be modified on site to be used in surgeries. This is truly innovation, with new ideas directly tried out of patients. Companies were also local, so surgeons had more of a voice. I'm sure the same was true with formulations prepared by apothecaries. But, what is the risk to patients? That also has to be weighed with the benefit that a paradigm-changing discovery can have on many future patients.

So, what models are out there to engage physicians in product innovation in a non-biased way? Does anybody have any examples? What about patients? This is the next wave. Patients should have a say in product development too. What is the best way to give patients a voice in this process? I'm going to look on the web and see what I find, but I'd love to hear of any examples others know of.

No comments: