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The Importance of Innovation in Healthcare

The Importance of Innovation in Healthcare

4:00 pm April 5, 2013, by Wayne Oliver, Executive Director, Patients for Fair Compensation

r&dIn 1955, Dr. Jonas Salk announced to the world that he had developed a vaccine for poliomyelitis (or polio) and the world was forever changed. No more would there be the need for polio wards or iron lungs. Innovation is hugely important in healthcare.

Just 25 years ago, if a patient came to a hospital with a heart attack, the best that could be done for the patient was to inject morphine for pain and lidocaine, which doctors believed would prevent dangerous irregular heartbeats … and hope and pray for the best. Now, as a result of medical breakthroughs like statin therapy to treat the progression of atherosclerosis, the American Heart Association indicates that we have seen a near 40 percent reduction in deaths due to coronary artery disease since 1998.
In 1989, at the International AIDS Meeting, Dr. Samuel Broder declared that AIDS was a chronic condition and that treatment of the disease meant that AIDS was no longer an automatic death sentence. Medical breakthroughs are important.

In the late 1990’s, electronic health records and electronic prescribing fundamentally changed the practice of medicine. With data and measurements, healthcare quality has started to improve and patient safety efforts are resulting in fewer patient injuries.
Scores of new therapies, new surgical advancements, and innovative diagnostic tools have reduced or eliminated an entire disease. However, there are significant threats to medical innovation.

In the future, regenerative medicine promises treatments for cancer, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries and other intractable conditions. But, we must continue to advance innovation.

We are not too far away from everyone in America having access to even the most hyper medical specialist remotely … via their laptop or smartphone through advanced telemedicine. Imagine a parent in rural Georgia being able to “visit” with a pediatric neurologist in Seattle to develop a dynamic treatment plan for their autistic child without ever leaving their home.
In the future, individual patient genetic profiles will allow for treatments which are specifically tailored for a patient. Personalized medicine is a direct result of investments in research and a commitment to support innovation.

Similarly, minimally invasive surgical techniques have transformed medicine. Less than two months ago, Dr. Bob Kelly of Resurgens repaired my left knee via orthoscopic surgery. I was walking around within 30 minutes of being discharged from the hospital.

These medical breakthroughs just didn’t happen. As a country, we had a commitment to advance innovative research and development. Things are changing. Innovators are taking their ideas, their capital, their jobs and their R&D projects to other countries who are more regulatory friendly and less litigious.

The US judicial system is in serious need of dramatic reform. Companies like Pfizer and GE are relocating projects to India and China for a number of reasons … not the least of which is our propensity to over litigate in the US.

Litigation reform would result in thousands of US jobs being created or reclaimed. Innovators are currently threatened by the litigious nature of the United States. So, they are taking their breakthrough research elsewhere. It is time to renew our commitment to innovation and end abusive lawsuits. Enough is enough.



1. What do you think is going to happen to the U.S. health care system if the innovators continue to go outside of the U.S. with their research because of so many regulations and threats of potential law suits?

2. On the flip side of that last question, if they could loosen the regulations and reduce the law suits, do you think there would be more risk to patients of receiving medical procedures and treatments that have not been thoroughly researched, tested, and approved? 


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