Thursday, February 22, 2007

Has State Managed Health Care Stifled Technology Innovation?

This will almost certainly prove to be a controversial post. I don't intend to offend, but I do wish to stimulate debate.

The hypothesis of the debate is that since the creation of the National Health Service in 1947, the UK health care sector has not been conducive to developing new technologies.

Although this has been in my mind for a while a piece of evidence came to me in a presentation on medical imaging at the IET London Local Network last night by Teresa Robinson, a Consultant Clinical Scientist in Bristol. Thanks for that Teresa, although I must stress that these are my views. Teresa showed that the early Computed Tomography (CT) research and development was done in the UK by EMI. The presentation also noted various British luminaries in the advancement of medical imaging.

EMI made a huge commercial success from innovations in such areas as radar, millimeter waves, microwave and CRT. This spans a period from WW2 through to recent decades. For some reason, EMI could not repeat that success with CT (which is also in the radiating electrophysics domain) and EMI abandoned its efforts in that arena. Now, just a few decades on, the CT industry is dominated by Siemens of Germany, GE of the US, Phillips of the Netherlands and Toshiba of Japan. These are all countries with what you might call progressive health care systems.

What went wrong? Perhaps EMI did not find a domestic marketplace full of clients ready to try new techniques?

I feel that customers drive innovation. It is their hunger to do things better, faster or cheaper that compels industry to satiate that hunger. Free health care at the point of delivery is a great vision, but have we lost the leading edge? Are the two mutually exclusive?

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Going Ga Ga for Open Process Frameworks

Not since Jim felt the same techno-twinge of excitement 339 days ago in March 2006 has anyone posted anything on a blog about Open Process Frameworks (OPF)*. Anyway, yours truly was trying to reconcile our organisation's Testing Process with a third party's who we need to demonstrate compliance to. In needing a little Google-help I stumbled across the Open Process Framework Repository Organization.

The description on the tin isn't going to see this competing with Britney's shaven head for popularity in the search engines... "a public-domain object-oriented framework of free, open source, reusable method components". However, this is a gold mine for IT professionals. Anyway, if you haven't already sensed that this is serious competitive advantage stuff, then more fool you... I'm not telling anymore. You need to find out for yourself.

I've only bounced around one small corner of this vast repository, but I'm sure this will be helping to shape our IT organisation work for years to come.

*quick Technorati plug.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Technology Entropy in 3D Visualisation

Not long ago visualisation was the preserve of cutting edge aerospace research. In the last decade, it was still the preserve of high end workstations from organisations like Silicon Graphics. Those folks are still leading the pack, but now fairly ubiquitous PCs and Macs can be used with the right software to create stunningly rendered environments. Still, I was amazed to see recently that 3D visualisation has moved into the realm of the FREE Adobe Acrobat Reader. The 3D images need to be created from a CAD package with the $995 Adobe Acrobat 3D product, but then anyone with Reader can view and manipulate the image. Sounds dull huh? Just try it...

Have a look at this jet engine data sheet. Zoom in on the engine in the top right corner of the sheet and then use the special toolbar to pan, zoom and rotate. Also, try the tabs on the left hand side to add or remove components and assemblies.

Absolutely amazing. Just remember this is a free viewing tool.

There is a warning message here for other specialist technology companies. You need to keep innovating to stay in business. You can't hold back the knowledge from progressing into the main stream- I call it 'technology entropy'. We're seeing the same in healthcare with Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) which are used to store and distribute complex and large MR and CT images. We are moving from this being the exclusive domain of heavy iron manufacturers into being wrapped up in terrabyte drives, browser applets and broadband connections.

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