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The win-win-win of Serious Medicine, Chicago-style

Posted Jun 26 2010 12:00am

Sandra Guy, writing for The Chicago Sun-Times this morning, reports on new technological developments in the Windy City that could dramatically improve surgical outcomes everywhere:  

Dr. Pier Cristoforo Giulianotti, a pioneer in performing surgery with robots, envisions the day when he will see a patient's MRI and discuss surgery with experts worldwide on an interactive screen inside his operating room.

"The possibility of having high-quality imaging and interactive communication on the walls is a concept that's very close to our ideal," said Giulianotti, a professor of surgery and chief of the minimally invasive, general and robotic surgery division at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"Imaging is of particular importance because images aren't just representations of reality, they contain all of the information one needs to perform an operation," said Giulianotti, who has worked in the field of surgical robotics since 1999 and who was recruited to UIC in 2007.

Dr. Giulianotti soon will be able to make his vision a reality with a 3-D, flat-paneled display system that provides so much resolution it achieves a human's 20/20 vision quality.

Dr. Giullanotti and his team are working to advance the Next Generation Automated Virtual Environment, which they abbreviate as NG-CAVE.   It's a breakthrough for medicine, and, of course, an economic shot in the arm for Chicago.

But wait!  There's more as reporter Guy relates: 

The NG-CAVE might even enable manufacturers to make better-quality 3-D TV sets, give astronomers a new look at the heavens and enable high-definition, life-size video of one's friends to jump to life on the wall when you want to talk with them.

So there's the win-win-win of NG-CAVE, and, by extension, all medical technology: A win for healthcare, a win for economic development, and a win for future technology spinoffs, into sectors unrelated to medicine.   In the short run, the bean-counters at the Congressional Budget Office might dread such technological innovation--Peter Orszag, a former director of CBO, now the director of the even more powerful Office of Management and Budget, has said that we need to slow the introduction of new technology in the name of budget savings*--but the truth is just the opposite. 

Such techno-gains won't cost us money, they will make us money, as well as, of course, make us healthier.  

* From Orszag's testimony to Congress on January 31, 2008:  "Future increases in spending could be moderated if costly new medical services were adopted more selectively in the future than they have been in the past and if the diffusion of existing costly services was slowed. Although this approach would mean fewer medical services, evidence suggests that savings are possible without a substantial loss of clinical value." 

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