Past vs. Present

New vs Old

Even when it is critically essential, we no longer know how to simplify and get things done faster and cheaper.

A brilliant doctor I have known for decades recently shared with me a fascinating fact. As a new physician in 1982, if he needed a liver sample from a patient, he simply took an appropriate needle, inserted it into where he knew it would enter the liver, withdrew the sample and went about helping his patient. It was standard procedure at the time. The whole process took 15 minutes and cost the patient about $250. Doctors knew there were some risks and believed perhaps 1/1000 might encounter a problem in the procedure.

Today, extracting a liver sample takes 2-3 hours, including x-rays, and costs about $2500. It probably is safer but if suddenly a million were quickly needed the system could not meet the demand. Correspondingly, the question of whether today’s process is more efficacious than yesterday’s remains shrouded.

The issue takes sharper focus in connection with Covid-19. Researchers returned to abandoned efforts on vaccines against previous contagions, including Ebola, to hasten development of a vaccine for Covid-19. Surely, there must be other “outdated” but beneficial – particularly in emergencies —practices that could, if enabled, offer more timely ways of addressing this pandemic.

The BIG question is how can our medicine reach back in time and use simpler, cheaper and essential treatments to meet the demands of a different but modern world??

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