Sometimes, I come across brilliant write ups that merit a thorough analysis in its entirety. I have been looking at healthcare innovation at various intervals and this write up would be a suitable opportunity to explore why the hype is detrimental to genuine innovation. An average or below average idea, if marketed well, is usually hailed as a breakthrough innovation. Therefore, what’s behind the technological hype, anyway? I’ll try to extrapolate the key takeaways through the examples in healthcare “industry”.
The large losses are easily explained: extreme levels of hype about new technologies, and too many investors willing to believe it. The result is what then-Federal Reserve Board chair Alan Greenspan, commenting on the dotcom bubble in 1996, called “irrational exuberance.”
Personalised medicine boom (and a bust) was fuelled to get the research dollars from NIH. It remained, for a very long time, as a part of the University flyer but started getting an incremental response (and a lot of hand wringing) in the conferences where the big names bemoaned about the “lack of cure”. Cancer rates have remained static with an improvement in the detection. Likewise, perceptional improvements in survival have taken place, but there remains a lot of Twitter chatter about financial toxicities and quality of life. So have we really made substantial progress?
The media, with help from the financial sector, supports the hype, offering logical reasons for the price increases and creating a narrative that encourages still more increases. Rising prices for internet companies in the late 1990s, for instance, led many people to believe that rises would continue indefinitely as the media described a New Age Economy of internet companies that would reorganize product value chains and create enormous new profitability for online businesses.
These are the classical booms and busts. We blame the media for their lopsided coverage- yet we cannot understand that major media houses are there to amplify the narrative. Cancer “cure” remains irrational goals whereas “control” is a more realistic term.
Why do cancers fail is more important research question than “treatment”. Likewise, “prevention” is more important than “cure”. Do we see research in these directions?
Zilch. Nada. Nyet. No.