Sunday, February 03, 2013

Technology prices fall - some consequences

A family member just bought a new computer. It's  30 years since he and I bought new computers together. Compared to the computers we bought back then, his new computer has:
  • 250 times the memory
  • 4,000 times the speed
  • 17 million times the storage
for half the price - which is actually one fifth of the price after taking inflation into account!

I thought about that when someone sent me a video about new advances in telemedicine, using inexpensive add-ons that allow smart phones to monitor EKG, display ultrasound images of the heart, monitor blood glucose in real time, etc. (

Yes, this will soon revolutionize medicine and drive a lot of medical technology labs (and their technologists) out of business. But this has only been made possible by the huge drop in the cost of computing power.

And, in a sense, it's a return to an earlier era when all the medical technology that existed at the time could be carried in the doctor's bag: thermometer, stethoscope, etc. The technology is much more capable now, but the idea that the doctor can wield it him- or herself without needing the help of numerous technicians is a step back toward a closer doctor-patient relationship; while the possibility that the patient can monitor his or her own symptoms and take appropriate action has to be another step in the right direction.