Thursday, February 3, 2011

Making Heart Surgery Simpler -- and Making Medicine More Complex

Heart surgery turns out to be one of those things that’s hard to describe without images.  Dr. Timothy Hunter from Humility of Mary Health Partners made a good effort, and better yet, he explained well how this benefits patients and changes the nature of surgery for doctors.  If you want to find out more about how it works, you can watch an online video, aimed at patients, that explains the procedure.  You can also read more about what Dr. Hunter is doing in this piece from the Youngstown Business Journal

What I found most thought-provoking about our conversation was the idea that changes in medical practice are so closely connected with industry.  That shouldn’t surprise us, but Dr. Hunter’s comment about the role of industry draws our attention to a part of the medical landscape that we usually don’t talk about.  We pay attention to doctors, hospitals, patients, insurance policies, and to national health care policies, but we rarely talk about how new ways of doing things are supported and promoted by companies that develop, manufacture, and sell very expensive equipment.  We like to imagine that medicine is not market-driven, that it’s not a business in the same way as other fields.  And in many ways, it isn’t.  But every new technique comes from somewhere, and good ideas are often transformed into profitable ventures via industry.  The question is, as I discussed with Dr. Hunter, how do we balance the costs of technology with the benefits of good health care?  That’s not always easy.

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