Taking our finger off the trigger

January 22, 2009

We’ve entered the earnings season, and companies have begun a refrain of woe about a growing hesitancy among hospital administrators to spend money, about gathering headwinds in global currency markets, about tough times.

We've entered the earnings season, and companies have begun a refrain of woe about a growing hesitancy among hospital administrators to spend money, about gathering headwinds in global currency markets, about tough times.

No question about it, times are tough. And they could get tougher. Now more than ever, we need strong leaders, men and women who can lead us through this mess. Could the answer be at our fingertips?

Researchers at the University of Cambridge in the U.K. have concluded that a longer ring finger compared with the index finger predicts success in making at least some financial decisions. Like all good research studies, the one supporting this conclusion is medically based and, unfortunately for us, highly focused.

Data assembled by the English researchers define a connection between the ratio of finger lengths and the success achieved by financial traders in London. Previous research found that prenatal exposure to male sex hormones can affect the developing brain and impart increased confidence and quickened reaction times.

These aren't everything we need to get out of our mess. But maybe they're a start. The medical imaging industry and the nation need leaders who can remain calm, analyze problems, and come up with plans that, if they don't immediately work, can be adapted for improved effect.

Throwing money all over the place, as Washington has done these past six months, or bemoaning a lack of interest in capital purchases is not going to get us very far. We need to look at the root problems and figure out how to fix them.

Macroeconomic issues are hurting us, not just in imaging but in every industry and every walk of life. We need to ask how our technologies -- MR, CT, ultrasound, nuclear medicine, x-ray, and PACS -- can make things better, not just in the imaging community but in broad-based medical practice, and in terms of health and finances for individual patients and our nation?

Our leaders may not have the answers to this question. But they need to begin looking for them and not just react.

I'm reminded of a western in which one of the men in a gunfight was blasting away. He was firing two or three shots in rapid succession no more than 10 feet away from another man who, before pulling the trigger on his gun, took a moment to aim.

Maybe both these guys had great reaction times, but only one overcame fear and the adrenaline surge that leads us to "do something, anything because if we don't, soon it may be too late." Let's all take a deep breath and figure out what to do.

Then let's do it.