A few days ago, I was at a medical conference and an anesthesiologist was asking me to develop technologies to help people like him track patients in the OR. These were not necessarily stethoscope ideas, but physiological measurement in general. I was amazed that what he was requesting didn't already exist. They were basic systems that were technologically possible 20 years ago, but don't exist.
That evening, flying back to Denver, I was listening to air traffic control on Channel 9 on my United flight. The trip was bumpy, and the pilot was navigating between storms, as were other pilots in the area. As I listened to the complexity of the job that the air traffic controller has - managing all these flights, changes in flight plans, weather conditions in flux - I thought back to the conversation that morning with the physician. Tracking thousands of aircraft is so much more advanced than tracking a few patients in the OR.
The FAA has systems to manage all this real time data, feeding it to pilots and air traffic controllers, and mistakes almost never happen. It is estimated that 100,000 people a year die in hospitals due to medical errors. That's equivalent to one air crash a day!
The FAA is a government agency. They have the finest record on the planet for air safety, better than any other country, and better than any other mode of transportation ever invented. Yet, the notion of government involvement in healthcare is a surefire way to strike fear into Americans about healthcare reform.
People seldom stop to think about the balance we need between free enterprise, creativity and personal expression on one side, and government oversight on the other. Like many things in this world, there's a balance. As an entrepreneur, I love the freedom this country affords people to explore their dreams, build innovative stethoscopes, etc. I'm not looking for more government regulation. But as I said, there's a balance.
Next time someone suggests to you that they want the government to stay out of their lives completely, suggest to them that they avoid flying. And when they get behind the wheel, they may want to avoid the Interstate highway system.
Next time, I'd like to point out a few other things that the government has done right.