Health IT

Dr. Atul Gawande talks speeding up “slow ideas” on The Colbert Report

The Colbert Report Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,Video Archive   Dr. Atul Gawande wrote a fascinating piece on the speed of innovation for last week’s New Yorker that explores how quickly two great medical innovations, anesthesia and antiseptics, caught hold. He proposes that the drastically different adoption rates of those two discoveries […]

 

Dr. Atul Gawande wrote a fascinating piece on the speed of innovation for last week’s New Yorker that explores how quickly two great medical innovations, anesthesia and antiseptics, caught hold. He proposes that the drastically different adoption rates of those two discoveries can actually teach us a lot about technology innovation and behavior change today.

Fear not if you couldn’t get through the entire seven-page narrative. Gawande was a bit more succinct in his appearance on Tuesday night’s The Colbert Report.

While surgeons immediately began using anesthesia, antiseptics took years longer to be adopted. “That is the story of many slow ideas, that you have to not only delay gratification but it’s painful up front,” he explained.

The solution for speeding up today’s important but slow-moving ideas in healthcare isn’t apps or incentives or punishment or asking people nicely to do something, but rather a social process that involves talking to each other and teaching each other.

Imagine that.

“That’s probably what it’s going to take for me to accept global warming,” Stephen Colbert chimed in. “Because it’s all happening up there on top of the globe and I don’t see it happening […] but if polar bears were going door-to-door knocking and saying, ‘excuse me sir, do you have a minute’ […] I might listen.”

Gawande somehow managed to keep the interview on topic, even when Colbert closed with his hardest-hitting question: “Why do you write about innovation in a magazine?”