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Hospitals are the Mainframe of the medical industry

Hospitals are the mainframe of the medical industry.

Computers used to be rare and expensive. Every bit, every CPU cycle needed to be carefully groomed, petted, and softly whispered sweet things to, protected and managed. The best way to do this was to make one big computer, the central mainframe, and have everyone worship it like a god, accessed only through 24x80 text-only glass video tubes.

Then came PCs. PCs are so cheap you can waste CPU cycles on silly things like... ease-of-use feature, applications that enable communication between people, graphical user interfaces, games, surfing the web, etc.

Medical equipment used to be rare and expensive. Every device required a highly trained specialist to maintain it, operate it, realize and interpret the results.

Medical equipment isn't like that any more. It is computer-controlled, usually self-maintaining, and sometimes even analyzes the results for you. It can be mobile, even personal. There are mobile MRI machines. You can put a FitBit on your arm. "Urgent care" facilities are popping up all over the place. Doctors are self-organizing mini medical centers that focus on particular aspects of care.

The mainframe industry ignored PCs as long as they could, then fought tooth and nail to avoid them, then either adopted to the inevitable future kicking and screaming like little babies or went out of business.

Hospitals are trying to figure out if they will be kicking and screaming like little babies and adapt, or ignore the issue for as long as possible and go out of business.

Good luck to them. I hope they figure something out because... you know... it affects our health and life... not just their balance sheets.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

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Here in Canada (I'm sure Americans are sick of hearing that by now..) we use mostly small independent clinics everywhere, backed by provincial insurance (in addition to independent insurance; I have Blue Cross extended coverage through work). They have definitely grown more capable and independent of hospitals over the last decade, and I've noticed (at least in my neighbourhood) that small medical service businesses cluster together, while hospitals are constantly having budgetary trouble. I wonder if hospitals could be replaced by networks of specialists, long-term, and what that would mean for patients. It's certainly convenient to have services clustered in one building.

I think you're right, it makes sense that improvements in equipment will eventually make it so that smaller general clinics can take on much of the routine load of hospitals, and that specialized places can take on tasks that are not time critical. That's very good news for cash-strapped hospitals, and could be good news for the doctor-patient ratio, leading to more personalized care, if a family doctor can personally handle more of the load.

It could even reduce the load on nursing; BC has a perpetual nurse shortage (they like to go to the States where they can earn more money, entirely sensible but ugh), and simpler, more portable devices could let those amazing people even more effective and perhaps require less training.

It's a bright old future, really.

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