Dear Colleagues,

In recent years, the health policy debate has broadened as physicians and policy makers seek a clear understanding of the process of innovation that leads to new technologies, and the benefits or potential drawbacks of using technologies in practice and medical education.

A message I sent you last September focused on the reality that many technologies today tend to be produced for the consumer market rather than for large corporations. Think smart phones, touchscreens, tablets and the Internet itself. This raises significant questions for Fellows, such as how these technologies can best be utilized for teaching and practice, and what the consequences could be for the Royal College’s standards and rules—not to mention patient safety—if we merge consumer-driven products into medical education and practice.

What’s certain is that technological innovations will transform our professional lives. In some ways, for many physicians, they already have.

Experts affirm what we know to be true

Recently, we consulted two experts in the field of medical innovation and technology—professors Wojtek Michalowski and Craig Kuziemsky—to gain insights about the opportunities, challenges and other implications of innovative medical technologies. The professors’ contend that technologies with implications for medicine should, as a rule, be embraced—not only by practicing physicians, but also by the medical education system.

But how and to what degree? And how can we ensure that emerging technologies serve the needs of specialist practice?

The professors echoed the Royal College’s conviction that leadership is needed on two fronts: to explore how our medical system can best employ available technologies; and to work with industry to ensure it develops the new technologies that specialists need most. The professors also reminded me that nature abhors a vacuum; either the Royal College will take a leadership on this complex issue or another body will. I couldn’t agree more.

Technology task force to launch in November 2013

Last September I announced that in 2013 the Royal College would launch a task force on innovation and technology, led by Dr. Susan Brien, our director of research, innovation and scholarship. Many Fellows responded to our call for volunteers, and we used the opportunity to set the groundwork for the task force, interviewing respondents about the gaps they perceive in medical technology as well as how those gaps could be filled.

I am pleased to announce that the formal launch of the task force will take place in early November, just before our annual Simulation Summit. When the task force begins its formal work, we will invite industry players in medical innovation and technology to educate us about research and development trends. We will collaborate with our industry partners, working together to gain a stronger sense of which technologies are most effective in specialist practice and what emerging technologies are most likely to be realized over the short and long terms. From there, our task force will direct our industry partners from a specialty medical perspective, informing them about which technologies are indeed filling the gaps we have identified and which are not being realized swiftly enough.

We are recruiting 15 Fellows for the task force and we still have a few openings. If you are interested in participating, please reply directly to me via email at: ceo@royalcollege.ca. As the task force proceeds with its work, we will report back to Fellows to ensure everyone has an opportunity to become involved in the discussion and debate.

In closing, I would ask you to consider an important question about innovation and technology. What role should the Royal College play with respect to innovation and technology in support of your practice? As always, I welcome your comments via blog functionality on this and any other questions that come to mind.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Padmos, BA, MD, FRCPC, FACP
Chief Executive Officer