• 14 March 2014
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  • By Mr Anjan Bose

"Technology and innovation to stay game changers"


Mr Anjan Bose, secretary general, Healthcare Federation of India (NATHEALTH)

Of late, the term "disruptive innovation" has come into extensive use, along with the phrase "out-of-the-box thinking." I came to the healthcare sector as an engineer at a time when even the word "healthcare" was not in use. Instead, the contemporary buzzwords were medical, medical technology, patient care, and so on. This was three decades ago. From then till now, I cannot find any single year when medical technology has not gone through radically disruptive and game-changing innovations. This is a result of the world's best clinical and engineering minds working together to create the most breath-taking evolution (or is it revolution?) that any industry or sector has ever witnessed, except maybe space technology.

Before Rontgen and after Rontgen - this almost sounds like BC and AD, but the discovery of X-rays was the kind of disruptive innovation which in its impact could possibly be compared only to Edison's discovery of the incandescent bulb. It is hard to believe that in the pre-Rontgen days, doctors had to diagnose and treat diseases without having any clue about how the internal organs within the body looked like.

Did the average longevity and mortality rates of humans have anything to do with inadequacy of technology? I am afraid they had. X-rays revealed an amazing world to the clinicians. They could "see" the insides of the human body and make much better judgments about what was happening and prescribe more effective treatment.

But then the clinicians got more demanding and pushed the envelope of innovation to limits beyond imagination. They wanted to see each layer within a volumetric organ, and thus came "tomography," thanks to one more in the chain of brilliant scientists who have made this revolution possible. Hounsfield's discovery led to "layer radiography" or "tomography," coinciding with the invention of computers. It was probably one of the most sensational landmark "dual discoveries" in the history of mankind.

Imagine that, today, a millimetric lesion's exact location can be detected within seconds on a screen and radio-therapy planning done based on that, such that the linear accelerator can deliver unbelievably focused and controlled radiation to make oncology a possibility without damaging good tissues surrounding a cancerous lesion! If this is not disruptive innovation, what is?


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