Trend towards faster accumulation of medical knowledge

Medical knowledge has been expanding exponentially. Whereas the doubling time was an estimated 50 years back in 1950, it accelerated to 7 years in 1980, 3.5 years in 2010, and a projected 73 days by 2020, according to a 2011 study

This is pretty interesting. First, I should say I don’t know how they are measuring medical knowledge. Second, I haven’t seen any update whether the doubling time has indeed increased from 3.5 years in 2010 to 73 days, as projected. Third, I also don’t know whether there is a difference in rates of increase in knowledge among different areas of specialty.

The possibility of exponential growth is exciting though.


But we still need 10+ years for a new drug to reach the market…

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Well, it depends, the shortest possible is now about 5 years but that is not average. That’s mostly things like cancer drugs.

The authors of this study were concerned because the people in medical school today will experience several doublings of knowledge while they are in school and in just a few years after graduation, but how will they learn all that? Increased knowledge has to be applied to be beneficial.

Whatever you think of medicine today it is so much more advanced than it was during the nineteenth century. They bled people who had the flu. Gynecology was an unending atrocity. Thank God for modern technology.

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