Healthcare and technology – a clash of culture between patient-centric care and commercial incentives

Mr Joel Grieger1

1University of Adelaide – Law School, Adelaide, Australia

Healthcare and technology – a clash of culture between patient-centric care and commercial incentives

This presentation will explore the potential “clash of culture” found at the intersection of the technology and healthcare industries. It will be argued that this “clash” can lead to decision making which places commercial incentives above patient wellbeing and, therefore, exposes vulnerable people to risk of harm.

At face value, the two industries appear to have different and conflicting driving principles (both real and perceived). The medical industry is governed by a strong legal and ethical framework which arguably has the health and wellbeing of the patient as the paramount focus. This appears in contrast with the ever-evolving technology/start-up industry; a sector with unofficial creeds including “move fast and break things” and “fail fast, fail often, fail forward”, and underlining competing interests (not dissimilar to those present in the wider commercial sector, but perhaps exacerbated with current trends) including the need to achieve substantial returns for investors and be first to market.

Under closer scrutiny, an image of conflicting cultures emerge. This presentation will, through consideration of the recent decision Ethicon Sàrl v Gill [2021] FCAFC 29, provide practical examples of the impact of this clash of cultures and argue that it can have a detrimental effect on the clinical decision-making process. The presentation will argue that this clash of cultures can cause errors to be made and poses a genuine risk to patient safety and must be considered when framing governance of innovation in healthcare


Joel Grieger is a Masters of Philosophy Candidate and sessional teacher at the University of Adelaide Law School. His research focus is on the application of technology to healthcare and the surrounding legal issues. He teaches classes on Commercial Law, Contract Law and Torts, having previously practiced as a Commercial Lawyer in South Australia.

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