I Would Like It Perfect, Free, and Now – Please

Daniel R. Matlis

A colleague once shared a sign he saw in a restaurant. It read something like this:

You can have your food Good, Cheap or Fast
You may pick only two.

If you pick:

  • Good and Fast, it won’t be Cheap
  • Cheap and Fast, it won’t be Good
  • Cheap and Good, it won’t be Fast

Last week, I was invited to a seminar on “Strategies for Operational Excellence” hosted by Iconics. There, I heard Mark Hepburn present the purest form of “Good, Cheap or Fast”. It is “Perfect, Free and Now” (PFN)

Let’s face it, as consumers we love PFN and, as we can hear from Capitol Hill, we want our healthcare PFN.

Historically, Life-Science manufacturers, regulators and consumers have expected drugs and devices to be Good and Fast. Consumers want potent drugs, with no side effects available just in time, but the cost has not been Cheap.

Nevertheless, the marketplace demands increased quality, lower costs and faster time to market. What is a Life-Science manufacturer to do? One solution: implement Analytics, Manufacturing Intelligence and Operational Excellence tools.

To illustrate my point with clichés: 

“Past performance is not guarantee of future results”
“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it”

Analytics and Manufacturing Intelligence allows manufacturers to sift through the Petabytes of historical data accumulated over the last twenty plus years to transform it into information, knowledge, wisdom and ultimately truth.  To move towards Operational Excellence, manufacturers must identify “golden” as well as “lead” batches and analyze key parameters that produced them.  They must also compare and contrast “golden” with “lead” batches to identify parameter that are inconsequential to product quality.

It is time for Life-Science manufacturers, regulators and consumer to deal with the reality that “Perfect, Free, and Now” is not attainable.  Maybe the best we can do is “Gooder, Cheaper and Faster”.


Open Source Software in Medical Devices

This week, Medical Product Outsourcing (MPO) published my article entitled: “Can I Make Your Pacemaker Software Run Faster”.

If you are a regular reader of Life-Science Panorama, my position on the topic should not be a surprise. See Can I make your pacemaker software run faster?

The MPO article details the use of free Software in medical devices and provides a sidebar on entitled “Not All Open Source Software Is Created Equal”.

Interestingly, the cover story in the current issue of Information Week is covers “The Controversy Over GPL 3” the Free Software Foundation’s General Public License (GPL). It is worth noting that a significant portion of the open source community, chief among them Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux will not sign on to GPLv3.

To Read the complete MPO article, click “Can I Make Your Pacemaker Software Run Faster


I Think I’m Ready for Y2K7

By Daniel R. Matlis

On February 13, I wrote about Y2K7, so I thought it would be a good idea to heed my own advice and get ready for DST.

I was pretty sure that I could take care of the issue in short order. After all, how hard can it be to download a few patches from the Microsoft website, install them on a handful of windows machines and update a BlackBerry?

I was confident that a couple of engineering degrees and almost 17 years of work experience around computers would make it a cinch.

I try not to complain in my articles, but in this case, I hope you will indulge me for the educational value.

I began the process by installing the latest windows updates, which includes “Windows Genuine Advantage”, a tool which according to Microsoft “helps customers all over the world who are victims of software piracy get genuine”.

That was easy enough and I thought that would solve all my Microsoft DST issues.

I went on with my day and scheduled an appointment for next Monday March 12th (the first weekday post Y2K7). To my surprise, my appointments were off by an hour. 

I after additional research on the Microsoft website I found the “Prepare Outlook calendar items for daylight saving time changes in 2007” page. The folks at Microsoft were nice enough to develop a self assessment tool that guides you though the upgrade process. It then proceeds to sends updates to everyone you have appointments with of the time change. This is useful if you have colleagues outside of the US who are not affected by US DST changes.
That wasn’t too bad. It took a few more steps than I expected, but within my level of tolerance.

I then proceeded to upgrade my Blackberry. I went to the Verizon site and was directed to the BlackBerry site.  At the blackberry site I found the following message:

Correct the time on the BlackBerry device

Option 1: Manually change the time in Options-Date/Time
• Move the time forward 1 hour on 11 March 2007, and then back 1 hour on 1 April 2007
• Move the time forward 1 hour on 28 October 2007, and then back 1 hour on 4 November 2007

Option 2: Apply the appropriate patch to the BlackBerry® device as per Impact to BlackBerry Devices except only the “User Initiated” patching applies (not administrator pushed).

Option 1 was not really an alternative for me, so I called Verizon to find out what was the version of the “Appropriate Patch” to apply for Option 2. FYI, if you end up on a version of the device software that is not supported by your carrier, they disown you and will not be able to assist you if you have technical issues.

My call was answered by Chris. I explain the situation and he asked if he put me on hold for a few minutes while he researched the issue. Upon his return, he informed me that he did not know the latest supported version, but he could help me though the upgrade process.  I could hear the rustling of papers in the background and I should have known right away that it was going to be one of those calls. You know, the one were the tech walks you though all the steps on his procedure verbatim and with little or no common sense. As Voltaire said, “common sense it not so common”.

During the course of 2 hours I was ping-ponged between Verizon and Blackberry. After speaking with a supervisor, my blackberry finally read “2007 DST Patch Applied”

The lesson: don’t underestimate the time it will take to prepare for the DST change.

By know most IT departments have updated servers and networked applications, but don’t forget about those standalone applications and systems.

I have to go now to check if there is a patch for my Digital Video Recorder. I will be very upset if it does not record Battlestar Galactica on Sunday.

See you in Y2K7+1.


I, Surgical Assist ROBOT

By Daniel R. Matlis

On February 13th, I had the pleasure to participate in a panel at Furness High School in Philadelphia to expose students to careers in science and technology.

One of the topics discussed was automation and robotics. Alicia B., a student at Furness, asked if I thought that we would ever see robots like those in the movie I,ROBOT?

My prediction was that in her lifetime, she will see autonomous robots.  Crazy, you might think, but many of the products you use today, from cars to computers and medical devices, are assembled by industrial robots.

I’m not taking about humanoids robots like Lieutenant Commander Data on StarTrek or the Humanoid Cylons on Battlestar Galactica. I am referring to robots that can duplicate the complexities of human motion and genuinely help people. One such example is Honda’s ASIMO. The robot took more than two decades of persistent study, research, and trial and error before Honda engineers achieved their dream of creating an advanced humanoid robot.

By now you are thinking, this is interesting Dan, but what does it have to do with the Life-Sciences industry?

Have you heard of Robotic Assisted Surgery?

Traditionally, surgeries had been performed in the open manner, in which large incisions were required for the surgeon to plainly observe and manipulate the surgical field. Large incisions translate into increased patient trauma, extended recovery time, prolonged pain management and elevated costs.

In the past two decades we have seen a transition in surgical technique to minimally invasive surgery (MIS). This less-invasive approach to surgical procedures, including endoscopic and laparoscopic techniques, is fast becoming the treatment of choice for patients around the world. Innovative surgical products and medical device technology coupled with life-enhancing procedures have made this revolution in the world of medicine a reality.

In MIS procedures, surgeons insert cameras and instruments in the patient’s body through small ports.

MIS has a couple of drawbacks for the surgeon:

  1. Using 2D monitor instead of looking at his or her hands, flattens natural depth perception (try grabbing an object in front of you while covering one eye)
  2. Using instruments through a scope can limit the surgeon’s dexterity (it can feel like operating with the proverbial 10 foot pole)

Since July 2000, the FDA has cleared Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci® Robotic-Assisted Surgical System for a wide variety of adult and pediatric procedures.

The da Vinci Surgical System consists of a surgeon’s console, a patient-side cart with four interactive robotic arms, a Vision System and Instruments. Powered by state-of-the-art robotic technology, the system seamlessly translates the surgeon’s hand, wrist and finger movements into precise, real-time movements of the surgical instruments inside the patient.

I,SURGEON it’s not, but can you imagine the offspring of ASIMO and da Vinci?

Let’s hope they don’t forget to program Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics”

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Steve Ballmer shares views on “what technology can do to positively revolutionize healthcare”

By Daniel R. Matlis

On February 26, 2007 Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer, offered his view on the role of technology in healthcare during his remarks at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) in New Orleans, Louisiana.

He commented: “we take a look at the whole area of health and we say this is the largest segment of the world’s economy, it’s one of the fastest growing, it’s one in which information plays and will play an increasingly large role, and really the opportunities for information technology to make an incredible difference is the way and the quality of health that people have a right to pursue is stunning.” 

During his remarks, Mr. Ballmer touched the following of key issues facing the Healthcare industry:

1. The explosion in the amount of clinical data available
2. The growing  interest and opportunity for patients to participate in their own healthcare
3. The need for Healthcare providers to fully leverage automation and information technology
4. The imperative for Healthcare firms to harness technology successes from industries like Airlines, Banking and Finance
5. The need to standardize and embrace XML as the set of standard protocols
6. Information Technology industry must build the tools that will allow healthcare to advance to the next level.
7. The need for an aggregated view of patients, so that practitioners can not only look at an individual patient, but what the experience has been with groups of patients
8. The challenge to let people communicate securely in a clinical context
9. The need to centralize records, and allow the data that’s in them to be mined

“We need to see policy that really talks about cooperation, group access to information, privacy, ownership of information. That needs to continue to evolve. Standardization of healthcare records, CCR, the NHIN initiative is very important, HL7, and, of course, the work that has gone on with XML Web services needs to be continued and extended” said Ballmer.

“Service-oriented architecture is a new technology, and one that I think will be more important in this industry than in any other” Ballmer added.

To meet these challenges, Microsoft announced the release of the Connected Health Framework, a set of tools and technologies that are designed to facilitate interoperable systems and the movement of information across the Healthcare spectrum.

I am pleased to see that many of the issues discussed by Mr. Ballmer have been covered in Life-Science Panorama. It’s good to know we are on the right track.