The most important innovation I’ve seen, being involved in health care for 30 years, is the move from metal to plastic. Plastic has revolutionised healthcare in parallel with other fields.
When training as a laboratory technician in the 1960s, power tools such as the electric drill would commonly be made of cast aluminium based alloy – inferior in every way to the well-insulated and rechargeable plastic models we have today.
In the healthcare field as a tertiary trained registered nurse, I’ve seen the wide use of life-saving plastic stents, synthetic blood vessels, sterile packaging for dressing packs, the almost complete disappearance of reusable glass syringes and metal needles with the associated prevention of disease transmission, and intravenous therapy flasks and tubing that can be cheaply and safely transported around the globe. The list is endless.
Luer tapered bi-metal connectors, which allow changing the cuff on blood pressure machines containing mercury, are, like liquid mercury itself, an expression of metal age thinking still part of nursing and medicine. I now see the useless metal Luers used on non-mercury environmentally safe aneroid machines, where they continue to leak and cause unnecessary costs to consumers.