Disruption, Not Destruction Will Save Medicine

Scott Mace, June 12, 2012

No contemporary discussion about healthcare and tech is complete without addressing the work currently sitting on top of Amazon's Health Care Delivery bestseller list.

The book by Eric Topol, MD, The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care, published in January, supposes that a combination of patient activism and sheer technological innovation can largely get us out of our current healthcare mess.

I respect Topol's long track record in medicine, and his ability to crank out an entire, fact-filled book about the revolutionary changes technology is bringing to healthcare. But I'm leery of going as far as he does. As a book title from another bestselling  author on disruptive innovation suggests, healthcare definitely needs to be disrupted. But I would stop short of creatively destroying it.

Why? Mostly because the many innovations Topol describes in this book are not quite ready for prime time. It's not that they won't set the theme for many years of medical innovations to come. They will. And this book, among others, will provide a blueprint for this innovation.

But science takes time, even in the Internet age. I learned this when I completed a certificate in clinical trial design and management at the University of California San Diego Extension last year.

The rush to develop new healthcare solutions is littered with stories of failure. Some of them made Topol's book. Vioxx, an anti-inflammatory drug that Topol challenged, is only one of the latest failures of the regulatory system to reign in innovation when its side effects turn deadly.

Scott Mace

Scott Mace is the senior technology editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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