You see it all the time on television and in all sorts of advertisements. Hospital X or Clinic X or Doctor X has a new imaging device, a new diagnostic tool, a new non-surgical machine that is reportedly faster, safer, or more effective. The health care organization is trying to win your business with technology. But this raises some questions: are their claims about the new technology really true? And, even if the technology could offer some advantages to you as a patient, does the staff at the health care organization really know how to use it to give you the better care that’s advertised?
My experience is that the answer is often no. The hospitals and doctors who claim an advantage for you with new technology may have done nothing more than write a big check. Now they are spending more money to win patients to justify the expenditure. What they should be proving to you is that they have skilled professionals who can do a better job with better tools. It’s the combination that matters. It’s like having a sports car. It’s no fun and even dangerous if you don’t know how to drive it with skill.
This is not to say that there are no true advances in medical technology. Of course, there are. And when there are you can quickly see it in use at more than one place. Even then, you might pause to do a bit more research before you rush to one of the clinics that has the new device. That’s because what’s new isn’t always better. For example, I just heard today that robotic surgery for prostate cancer has no long-term data and there are even concerns about increases in cancer recurrence because of the way the surgery is performed. No one knows for sure yet because the data is not yet in.
What is a potential new patient to do? First, recognize that health care is not performed by machines, it is performed by people. You are entrusting your health to their experience and ability. Second, if you are considering going to this hospital or clinic because of something new, call another facility that doesn't have it and ask them why they don’t or why it would not be an advantage to you.