The Top Ten Medical Advances of the Decade. What’s Wrong with the Picture?

Sometimes it’s fun to peruse year-end lists—best shows, best moments, best songs, best presidential gaffes, best viral videos, and the list goes on…. which gets even longer with the end of decade or the century.

In this spirit, ABC News just ran a story about the ‘top ten’ medical advances of the decade, which I found very interesting. They reached out to more than 800 specialists for their suggestions, and those suggestions were sent to the American Association for the History of Medicine, which narrowed down the list to the medical advances this decade that have had the MOST IMPACT.

Here they are:

1. Human Genome Discoveries Reach the Bedside

2. Doctors and Patients Harness Information Technology (moving away from pad and paper)

3. Anti-Smoking Laws and Campaigns Reduce Public Smoking

4. Heart Disease Deaths Drop by 40 Percent

5. Stem Cell Research: Laboratory Breakthroughs and Some Clinical Advances

6. Targeted Therapies for Cancer Expand with New Drugs

7. Combination Drug Therapy Extends HIV Survival

8. Minimally Invasive Techniques Revolutionize Surgery

9. Study Finds Heart, Cancer Risk with Hormone Replacement Therapy

10. Scientists Peer Into Mind with Functional MRI

The list is a great reminder about how big an impact knowledge can have in improving life – sometimes through science, sometimes through changes in policy and sometimes through applications of technology. From the perspective of other industries or aspects of life, it’s hard to believe that doctors and patients harnessing the power of Information Technology—moving away from pad and paper—makes the top ten list. It’s pretty ironic with all the amazing medical advances that our health delivery system is so far behind….but it really highlights just how much opportunity there is for us to improve it.

It’s my first wish for the new year that #2 isn’t on the list in the next decade – that we see something about the impact of information technology on the whole system—in the form of improved health outcomes and efficiency gains. My second wish is that we continue to see dramatic innovation in knowledge (science, technology, policy) improving life here and in the rest of the world.