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David Brewster, Dml - Star Tribune

Tough talk for Minnesota's medical community

  • Article by: JILL BURCUM
  • Star Tribune
  • January 26, 2012 - 4:54 PM

Ezekiel Emanuel, the fiery former presidential health care adviser, threw down a challenge to Minnesota’s medical technology industry as he championed the 2010 health reform law during a Wednesday speech at the University of Minnesota.

“I know I’m in the land of medical devices,’’ Ezekiel said with a little grin. “But you guys can do better by thinking about devices that save money.’’

If anyone’s counting, that’s the second shot Emanuel has taken at Minnesota’s medical community recently. A few weeks ago, a commentary he penned with Steven Pearson, a Massachusetts internist and policy wonk, took aim at Mayo Clinic.

The piece, published initially in the New York Times, critiqued Mayo’s effort to build a proton beam treatment facility as an example of medical care cost drivers.

Emanuel scoffed at claims the 2010 Affordable Care Act will “kill off” medical innovation. Instead, he argued, it will result in a “huge proliferation” of innovation.

Industry needs to quit thinking of innovation only as new pills and devices, he said. Instead, it needs to find new ways of tracking patients’ health, reducing medical errors and hospital readmissions, and incorporating information technology into medicine to reduce costs.

“It opens a whole range of things for innovators,’’ Emanuel said.

The abundance of smart phones and iPads pinging and lighting up in the audience seemed to underscore Emanuel’s point. What new medical apps are waiting to be developed? And how could they improve health care while controlling costs?

Minnesota has long been at the forefront of medical technology. The state’s world-class inventors, scientists and entrepreneurs have a key role to play as the nation wrestles with this era’s most pressing crisis: making health care affordable without sacrificing quality.

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Jill Burcum is a Star Tribune editorial writer.

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