Innovation & being realistic

This week’s news included a report about a technology developed by an interventional cardiologist that, based on its first-in-man report, effectively reduced radiation exposure to operators. Should we be skeptical of the results, considering the cardiologist holds the intellectual property to the shielding device and has licensed it to industry? We should be realistic.

First, who better than a physician who faces the potential effects of accumulated occupational exposure to conceive of a device that both protects and is functional? Innovators who have hands-on experience with a problem are well-suited to stay focused on what is needed to alleviate the burden and what potential barriers could get in the way of its acceptance.

The burden is literal in this case. Heavy lead aprons donned during cardiac catheterization procedures have strained many an operator’s spine and caused orthopedic injuries. Add to that concerns about cancers and cataracts from lifetime radiation exposure.

A physician who performs PCIs also would recognize the importance of functionality. If a technology fails to work seamlessly in a process, then it is likely to meet resistance. The report claimed that adding the shielding technology added about 10 minutes and it did not impede procedures.

Should we take this with a grain of salt? Certainly, but that doesn’t mean the results are invalid. We can’t answer what we don’t ask, and this was a study using a small number of patients and a few operators who may have been familiar with the technology.

How would it hold up in other settings with other operators and a variety of cases? What would an investigator who has no vested interests observe? Many might see those interests as monetary, but the desire to have an invention be a meaningful improvement is a powerful motivator—and a potential source for unrecognized bias.

Based on the initial results, hopefully the shielding technology will continue to be studied by an independent team of researchers, because the need is there. What are your thoughts?

Candace Stuart

Cardiovascular Business, editor