Opinion: I admit it, I'm a technophile

April 15, 2008

Technology has transformed medicine; to keep up with these advances requires access to unbiased clinical reviews, which are provided in this special issue.

I started reading Contemporary OB/GYN when I was a resident and for more than 30 years, the Technology issue has always been one of my favorites. Why the tech issue?

No doubt my father, an electrical engineer, helped forge my love of gadgets, sparking my interest at a young age. I remember him coming home from an out-of-town meeting with a large cardboard box about 30×30×15 inches in size. He said someday this would be the size of something that would be called a "personal computer." His excitement at this prospect was infectious and at that point, it was clear to me that future technologic developments would benefit our lives. My laptop computer, my cell phone, and my PDA-my "accessory brains"-have certainly proven that to be the case.

Of course, technology has not just contributed to our personal lives. The free online encyclopedia Wikipedia ( http://www.wikipedia.org/), one of my current favorite sources of information, indicates that medical technology "refers to the diagnostic or therapeutic application of science and technology to improve the management of health conditions." The Wikipedia entry goes on to state that "technologies may encompass any means of identifying the nature of conditions to allow intervention with devices, pharmacologic, biologic or other methods to increase life span and/or improve the quality of life." As clinicians who care for women, we rely on technologic developments to benefit our patients.

But it's not always easy for physicians to keep up with and evaluate the latest technologies. In this issue, Contemporary OB/GYN's experts provide unbiased reviews that allow us busy clinicians to figure out when a given technologic development is "ready for prime time," and to incorporate new devices and technologies into our practices, based on evidence and science rather than marketing or hype. The article by Drs. Matthew Guile and Robert Bristow on "New tools for preventing surgery-related adhesions and excessive bleeding" discusses several ready for prime time technologic advances. The article by Drs. Willard Cates and Zeda Rosenberg, on the other hand, gives us a glimpse into the future by summing up the research on vaginal microbicides now in the pipeline. And finally, Drs. Michelle Isley and Paul Blumenthal provide a concise summary of the latest treatment protocols for women who are seeking a medical alternative to surgical abortion.

How will you use this information in daily practice? That depends in part on your attitude toward technology. Adopters of new technologies have been categorized as innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, or laggards. Most readers fall somewhere along this continuum. But whether you are an early, mid- or late-adopter, evidence, science, and insights from distinguished experts will help you to assess which technologies will benefit the women for whom you provide medical care. As clinicians, it's our duty to critically and carefully assess new technologic developments. I believe that this issue of the journal will help you do just that.

DR. HILLARD, Issue Editor, is Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Chief, Division of Gynecologic Specialties, Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, CA.