New Isn't Always Better When it Comes to Healthcare

Julie Shenkman
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Robert Pearl, MD, writes for Forbes magazine on health care issues, and one of his pieces discusses how the press and researchers tout medical advances without getting all of the facts straight. As patients read about new procedures, drugs or therapies that could possibly help them get well and lead better lives, the health care industry must evaluate these claims to determine if the news is legitimate or just a lot of hype.

Lots of Hype, Very Little Evidence

Pearl cites a cancer-detection device doctors use when removing tumors as a medical advance that does not necessarily live up to the hype. The knife cauterizes the wound while creating a bit of smoke at the same time. The tool supposedly helps doctors determine if what they cut in a patient contains cancer cells or normal cells based on the smoke given off by the burning material. But what happens when the surgeon cuts out the healthy cells surrounding the tumor?

The smoke given off by the tool appears normal because the surgeon must try to get every single cancer cell in the wound. Otherwise, there's a chance the cancer may return if some of the mutated cancer cells remain in the body. Developers of the cauterizing surgical knife touted their medical advance after preliminary research rather than waiting to do a thorough clinical trial.

Lives at Stake

Similarly, cancer medications can extend the lives of patients for a few weeks. Rather than focus on a medical advance that can extend life, why not turn towards early detection or prevention of cancer in the first place? Early detection of colon cancer can save tens of thousands of lives, and detection can occur even without a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy, though high-tech, takes two days of prep time to happen. Instead, an at-home test administered once per year for five minutes can detect colon cancer just as readily as the more-invasive colonoscopy.

Unfortunately, an at-home test is a medical advance that doesn't necessarily make health care companies a lot of money. Colonoscopies, on the other hand, can bring in more dollars to a hospital or a doctor's office. IoT devices and wireless medical detectors do the same thing because they put health care back in the hands of the patients. When these devices transmit data to doctors, it streamlines the health care process and makes lives better for patients. Devices such as heart monitors, fitness apps and more can lead to medical breakthroughs if the health care industry develops them properly.

A medical advance isn't necessarily the best thing when it comes to patient care, especially for those already receiving effective treatments. The 'new is better' mentality is not always true and does not necessarily lead to a better quality of life for all patients.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at


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  • mansoora b.
    mansoora b.

    I think it all depends on the surgeon how he uses the knife during sugery. Patient depending on him its just the surgeon experience can use different tools if he knows what he has to do . My experience with breast cancer surgeory was good so my surgeon Dr. Morton is an experienced surgeon in Kaiser, i highly recommend him for everybody.

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