But here in 2016 we have lots of advantages. We have had the computer revolution. We have multiple high-end health data systems in daily use around the world (and vendors keen to sell them). We have the internet and a relatively better-informed population. So many new drugs and medical techniques and guidelines have been worked over that our medicine of 2016 is better than it was in 1971. Yet things are not as good as they could be, nor are they as good as they should be.
What are we to do about this? I think at least part of the solution has to be to declare what Northern Ireland (or whatever region you're reading this from) actually is all about. And we've to make it about DATA. How do we know what our population needs? We get data. How do we know how to deal with a certain set of problems? Get data. How do we train doctors? Look at the data - what works, what doesn't? How do our local companies know what the market needs? Data. How do we relentlessly improve quality? How do we improve prospects for our young people? How do we help our elderly? How do we make sure our stressed resources go as far as we can make them?
The answer is in the data. We need to make Northern Ireland a data-driven society. I never want to see a patient treated poorly because decisions were made on faulty or incomplete data - particularly when the data may have already been available within "the system" but just not accessible to the decision-maker. I don't want to waste the precious time of patients or doctors or nurses, because time is perhaps our most precious resource.
I also want Northern Ireland to play a full and active role on the international stage. We have had enormous success with the Northern Ireland Electronic Care Record, but I want our national and international visitors to come here and find even more. I want them to find a health system, an economy, a society which is actively studying ways to continually improve.
Life is hard, the future is uncertain. We're gonna have to science the shit out of this.