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Moore's Law, Disruptive Technologies, and the Clinician

CIMIT/MGH/Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, MA, USA.
Stud Health Technol Inform
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Stud Health Technol Inform. 2002 Jan;85:8-13.
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Vosburgh K.G., Newbower R.S. Moore's Law, Disruptive Technologies, and the Clinician. Stud Health Technol Inform. 2002 Jan;85:8-13. PMID: 15458052.
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The advancement of technical power described by Moore's Law offers great potential for enabling more cost-effective medical devices and systems. However, progress has been slow. Many factors for this failure have been cited, including the anti-rational economic structure of healthcare and the complexity and long time scale of medical development. Christensen et al. suggest that "disruptive technologies" may circumvent some of these difficulties. "Disruptive Technologies" are defined as those that are established in one market, but then penetrate and overwhelm another market. These incursions are accelerated by economic factors, and capitalize on functionality, reliability, and advancements supported by the original market. Christensen has cited many examples from industrial and service businesses, but few examples can be found yet in healthcare. We argue that positive technology impacts in medicine occur most readily when innovators augment the skills of and collaborate with caregivers, rather than seeking to displace them. In the short term, a new approach may improve efficiency or quality. In the longer term, such approaches may obviate human tasks at lower-skill levels, and even permit task automation. One successful example has been the introduction of flexible monitoring for physiologic information. Systems for computer-aided diagnosis, which have failed to impact complex decision making, have succeeded in simpler specialty areas such as the interpretation of EKG's and mammograms, and may do the same with analysis of some pathology images. The next frontier may the operating room, and the adoption of such systemic technologies by caregivers in emergency medicine and general care may then have an even wider "disruptive" effect. Responding to time and cost pressures, and the desire to move care to the patient, other workers, such as radiologists, will drive the trend away from isolated, complex, large-scale devices, and toward integrated, modular, and simpler networked technologies. In summary, technological "push" will continue in the demanding cutting-edge application areas as always, but the "disruption" will occur through wider application of lower-cost technologies, pulled by the users. The capabilities described by Moore's Law will allow the advancements necessary to facilitate this dissemination of capability and its ultimate benefit, so long sought.