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How liability distribution is holding back certain types of innovation in healthcare

Home > How liability distribution is holding back certain types of innovation in healthcare

I recently posted about my upcoming  Healthcare Unbound presentation on why healthcare disruption is happening too slowly and requested some thoughts from my readers. This morning I woke up to receive these terrific remarks from Jeroen Bouwens which I’m sharing with permission:

My theory as to what is holding back certain types of innovation in healthcare is the idea of distributing liability. As long as the ultimate responsibility, and therefore liability, lies with the Medical practitioner, they are extremely reluctant to accept automated systems making medical decisions.

At the same time, medical device manufacturers are extremely reluctant to accept liability, because a single system error replicated over many devices can easily result in a company-destroying avalanche of lawsuits.

The result is medical devices that, for all the fancy user interfaces, soothing colors and sexy design enclosures, are still nothing more than dumb terminals that do whatever the doctor tells them to do

Ok, maybe that is not entirely fair to modern devices, which are, in some ways, much more advanced than in the past, but it also not that far from the truth.

I mentioned to Jeroen that I agree with his assessment. I do think that a lack of clarity of what happens with liability within an ecosystem of trusted partners and how that liability is appropriately and fairly distributed is probably a great impediment to innovation in healthcare.

My specific experience in the medical device development community leads me to believe that the lack of connectivity between devices can, indeed, partly be blamed on no single vendor wanting to take on additional liability for another vendor’s errors or data.

What do you think about liability distribution? Are there are other things you think are specifically holding back innovation in healthcare? Drop me a comment here or send me a private email if you’d like to discuss it further.


Shahid N. Shah

Shahid Shah is an internationally recognized enterprise software guru that specializes in digital health with an emphasis on e-health, EHR/EMR, big data, iOT, data interoperability, med device connectivity, and bioinformatics.