Machine intelligence will eclipse human intelligence within the next few decades – extrapolating from Moore's Law – and our world will enjoy limitless computational power and ubiquitous data networks. Today's iPod® devices portend an era when biology and information technology will fuse to create a human experience radically different from our own.
Between that future and the present, we will live with accelerating technological change. Whether predictable or disruptive, guided or uncontrollable, scientific innovation is carrying us forward at unprecedented speed. What does accelerating change entail for medicine?
Already, our healthcare system now appears on the verge of crisis; accelerating change is part of the problem. Each technological upgrade demands an investment of education and money, and a costly infrastructure more quickly becomes obsolete. Practitioners can be overloaded with complexity: therapeutic options, outcomes data, procedural coding, drug names…
Furthermore, an aging global population with a growing sense of entitlement demands that each medical breakthrough be immediately available for its benefit: what appears in the morning paper is expected simultaneously in the doctor's office. Meanwhile, a third-party payer system generates conflicting priorities for patient care and stockholder returns. The result is a healthcare system stressed by scientific promise, public expectation, economic and regulatory constraints, and human limitations.
Change is also proving beneficial, of course. Practitioners are empowered by better imaging methods, more precise robotic tools, greater realism in training simulators, and more powerful intelligence networks. The remarkable accomplishments of the IT industry and the Internet are trickling steadily into healthcare. MMVR participants can readily see the progress of the past fourteen years: more effective healthcare at a lower overall cost, driven by cheaper and better computers.
We are pleased that this year's conference has an increased emphasis on medical education. In many ways, education is the next medical toolkit: a means to cope with, and take advantage of, accelerating change. Through interaction with novice students, medical educators are uniquely equipped to critique existing methods, encourage fresh thinking, and support emerging tools. Each new class of aspiring physicians stimulates flexibility in problem solving and adaptation within technological evolution. As an earlier generation of physicians trains its successors, experience can guide innovation so that change accelerates for the better.
As always, we wish to thank all the participants who make MMVR possible each year. It is our privilege to work with you.