Would the FDA have approved the first personal computer?

A stethoscope resting on a laptop.

JEREMY HOBSON: In about a half hour a Congressional Committee will hear from patients, doctors and health care experts. They'll be testifying about the standards the Food and Drug Administration uses to approval medical devices. And as Gregory Warner reports from our health desk at WHYY in Philadelphia, one researcher wants the FDA to start approving inferior devices.


Gregory Warner: The FDA approves medical devices it deems better than what is already on the market. Most of the debate this morning will focus on how the FDA makes those decisions. But according to a theory called "disruptive innovation," the really good technology starts out inferior and improves over time.

Michael Mandel: The early version of the personal computers were toys; they weren't efficiency-boosting -- it took years of development.

Michael Mandel of the Progressive Policy Institute will tell Congress that the FDA should look for devices like those early computers that have the potential to transform health care.

Mandel: You know we want better health, but what we really need is treatments, devices that give us the same health, using fewer workers.

Harold DiMonaco directs the Innovation Support Center at Massachusetts General. He says encouraging efficiency isn't the FDA's job.

Harold DiMonaco: I don't think it's the FDA; I think it's the industry in and of itself.

But he says the industry isn't going to invent those efficient devices until the market demands them.

In Philadelphia, I'm Gregory Warner for Marketplace.

About the author

Gregory Warner is a senior reporter covering the economics and business of healthcare for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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