Tuesday, February 25, 2014

DUH, AHA, EUREKA – From Idea to Innovation

Asset Managers manage the life-cycle of an asset in order to meet or exceed the projected revenue or savings.  Acquisition, utilization, maintenance and disposal are all phases within that life-cycle.  This two-blog series takes a look at the life-cycle of an asset before it becomes as asset as we know it.  Specifically, it covers when an asset starts as an idea and works its way to something innovative. 

There are duh moments.  There are aha moments.  And there are Eureka moments.   I experienced one of those duh moments during this interview. Of course an idea has a life-cycle. Of course the life-cycle of an idea can be managed.  Most often, ideas have a short life or get stuck in I’ll get around to it mode.  Some ideas continue into perpetuity in the form of a thing.  Think of the value that the wheel brought and still brings to the world.  Grinding, transportation, lifting… this thing may have started out as an idea from ancient times.  Yet, is has become an intricate, sometimes latent, part of our lives that still turns out value for us.

Bringing ideas to fruition often takes tremendous effort.  This is where PCD Works become necessary for companies.  Louise Rainone-Musial is the Director of Strategy and Development for PCD Works.  She stated, “PCD Works is a full-service technology development company specializing in breakthrough product innovation”.   Consider Louise an idea spotter in the part of the life-cycle called new product development.   She is “responsible for seeking out, engaging, and bringing new clients or partners”.   She “spearheads the resulting innovation into the market place.”

Ideation is a key part of the PCD Works methodology.  Ideation deals with the raw products of gray matter and passion to bring value to an idea.  Building value from a customer’s idea through PCD Works’ mantra of Create, Test, Build, Refine, and Deliver is their core business.
Louise further stated that, “In this methodology, we identify and reduce the risks associated with driving innovative products to market.   In that, communication is very important.”
This is where Louise’s background gets very interesting as it relates to bringing innovations to market.  I asked about her fine arts background.  She replied that if anything, film is about bringing the idea out of an author’s head to life.  That involves both the processes of arts and very technical aspects.  At the end of those processes, the audience can be brought into ground breaking experiences.  While each member of the audience may have a different personal experience, the plot, the setting, the pace, the dialogue, and the cast keep the audience sharing a common experience.
I asked Louise, more about how she came to this.  We started with the state of Montana.
 “Living in Montana was live and let live.  It takes you out of the status quo.  When I was young, I was taught you can do anything you want.  So, I spent a lot of time in the woodshop....
“My mother was an architect.  My father taught at university.  He was an architect and a clinical psychologist. We didn’t use the woodshop just for making furniture.  We used it for science as well.  One of my strongest memories is a science project my father did with me.  The project involved treating saw blades with liquid nitrogen cryogenically.  We used them. Then, we compared the wear of the blades.  The objective was to see if treating the blades extended the life of each blade.”
“Do you still make furniture?” I asked.
Her response was immediate.  Her tone lightened.  “Yes, my husband and I still make furniture.”
“So, that duality developed within you, the technical and creative.  You finished college and entered your first job.  How did that go?  Did your bosses appreciate that duality or did it cause problems?”
“In my first real job in which I really could create my own path… I think they did appreciate that.  But, there were risks there.   You don’t have a résumé that early in your career to show your accomplishments.  It is a harder sell.”  She went on to say that persistent is the key.  Sometimes a person may not be telling the story right.  People have to know that you are not just saying something off the cuff.  “You have to build a case based on trends, data analysis, the successes of similar organizations, and other information.”  Sometimes people do not see the connectivity of the world.   “You have to help connect the dots… which are not always linear.  It can involve synthesis as well.  You have to take them on the journey with you.”
I asked, “So, success for someone with this type of dual capability is about messaging and moving from being creative to innovative.  Can you talk to me about the difference between creativity and innovation?”

“Creativity is a part of innovation.  Innovation has value and execution.  Creativity is a huge umbrella that covers ideas in general.  An idea may be acted upon.  But, it may not hold value for others.  The work we do at PCD Works is very exciting because, while we are good in the idea phase, we are good at understanding the value of that innovation.   This means we have to execute to bring those ideas into innovation.  PCD Works is very good at execution.”  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Part 2 of 2, All-Knowing Data Gods

Part One of “All-Knowing Data Gods”, #allknowingdatagods, asserts that adopting industry standards for identification is of little use when no methodology exists to propagate those standards throughout the enterprise.   It points to the challenges of managing that data because various software applications through the enterprise require manual input on many levels.  Those manual transactions introduce errors and unnecessary redundancies.

Though part one lays out the problems in terms of enterprise applications, business processes generate the data collected and stored by those applications.  The image below contains typical processes that affect the balance sheet and decision support in regards to capital.

All of these processes are important.  All generate information recorded by enterprise applications, standalone databases or spreadsheets.  Some capital systems are complex.  IT manages software applications and IT related hardware.  Facilities Management handles related renovations or additional hardware like a cooling system.   Clinical engineering performs first-call.  A contractor performs most of the service on the actual device. When consulting agencies come in with datasets and advice on maintenance cost spending levels, how can anyone pull a query to determine whether or not those maintenance costs are even relevant?  The data is scattered thinly and inconsistently across the enterprise.   Staff should have guidelines, from an executive leadership point of view,  on how key data needs to be collected and maintained.  

Collaboration between these departments are very helpful.  More people combing through reports to validate information is one choice.  Even so, there is another problem.  The collaborative team still requires information.   Each respective software application can have databases constructed differently.  Writing a query in some of these applications can be a challenge.  Validating the information is a greater challenge. Especially, when it comes to older database structures.  A person querying information without knowing exactly what database table and field stores that information invites trouble.  A user will have to understand, search, find, and validate this each time any report is modified.

Why would anyone outside of the CIO business unit need to know about database structure? Lean initiatives, data-driven outcome, evidence-base… that's where healthcare is headed, not database fields and tables.  The fact is that the data in data driven and evidence-base outcomes derive from someone putting information into a database from a process within the organization.  Retrieving information that reflects a valid picture of how an organization is functioning is a big problem.  A great part of the issue has to do with the database structures of enterprise applications.  From speaking with several dozen people, valid complaints are often rejected as excuses.  
  1.  Staff cannot save a query.  Not save the information from a query but actually save a query.
  2. Staff spend less time analyzing data versus more time removing headers, spaces, merging cells, separating cells, and other formatting.
  3. Staff complains about not having access to a vital recurring requirements and must wait on someone else’s actions.
These are just a few challenges to data quality and reflect why so many people have little faith that these issues can be resolved in any useful manner.  Here are some actions to consider to finally get it right with data quality.
  1. Move toward data quality
    • Identify the processes that are important for the balance sheet and decision support.
    • Determine what data is important
    • Locate, definitively, where that data resides and how to query it
    • Validate the data from these processes
    • Develop processes to standardize and maintain the integrity of these data inputs
  2. Build Fiscal and Physical Visibility
    • Work with vendors that can help with these challenges, especially distributors and Supply Chain IT providers.  See later note
    • Determine how best this data should be delivered
    • Write performance standards that promote data quality standards
    • Integrate IT applications
    • Make a plan to migrate to one platform for asset management.  Vendors may offer add-0n applications.  This is not a bad thing if the add-on adds to the value of the application.  Make sure the add-on is fully integrated not a standalone application and that it fully meets the requirement.
  3. Move to one platform.

Aforementioned Later Note:  A healthcare facility, that believes it is too small for its needs to effect a vendor's behavior, is too small.  Don't make that mistake.  Never underestimate your ability to have an impact.

In 2012, I attended a supply and material conference.  I asked about 20 material managers why not choose to work with vendors that can help with these challenges, especially in the case of RFID in the supply chain.  Supply chain is a great place to develop and leverage data quality.  The overwhelming response was to return a question to me, “Why would a distributor do that?”  I answered because it really does help both of you and the distributor.  In 2013, Cardinal (a distributor) purchased WaveMark (an RFID solution provider at the item level).  This means distributors are indeed interested, after all.  The only question remaining is, will RFID enabled supplies that show up at the receiving dock continue to be manually processed all the way to the point of use or return?

Thursday, February 6, 2014


 Part 1, discussed the context in which I met Anand Surana, the CEO of ICEGEIN

Part 2, covered how Anand started ICEGEIN.  We left off with a discussion of how RTLS/RFID providers should offer options aside from enterprise wide implementation.  The post hinted at a move by ICEGEIN that goes well beyond EMR partnerships and integration efforts.

Enterprise coverage is for broad needs to leverage and reinforce best practices, increase safety and effective communications, and collect data across the enterprise.  A medical facility may have more pressing, more specialized needs for a specific service, like tracing travel patterns, surgical set tracking, pharmaceutical tracking or area workflow.   Eventually, this information should be shared by electronic medical records, enterprise resource planning, material management information systems ,  asset management systems, or others.  Again, integrators can have great value here. 

Anand stated, “When we initially looked at RTLS, we considered a number of products, including UHF.  We balanced our considerations against the customers we were trying to reach. WiFi was pervasive.  But, we also work with 900MHz and have other technologies deployed as well.”
“You mentioned growth.  How are you growing ICEGEIN?” I asked.
Anand answered, “Overall, we have 11 deployments in hospitals and 38 deployments in other industries.  ICEGEIN is growing, but our growth is not solely about this company.”
“Please elaborate.”
“ICEGEIN is considered a vertical industry of the Surana Group.  The Surana Group purchased two businesses in the United States which indicates our direction: Trust RCM and Medical Management Strategies.”

Trust RCM and Medical Management Strategies expand U.S. capabilities in Physician Practice Management, Revenue Cycle, Coding, Denial Management, Accounts Receivable flow analysis, billing collection, contract credentialing, and management consulting.

Here is a quick example of the implications of the Trust RCM acquisition.  Trust RCM provides HCC solutions (Hierarchical Condition Coding).  HCC codes help insurance companies assess the risks associated with a beneficiary’s health condition.  Furthermore, insurance companies use the codes to project the resource needed to manage a beneficiary’s care in the following year.  A beneficiary with no known medical conditions should take less money to treat than someone with a chronic and potentially debilitating medical condition.
With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies face restrictions on dropping people from coverage. The accuracy and precision in this coding is even more crucial for profitability.

Enter the connector of many things great and small, the integrator.  ICEGEIN’s motto is “Get the right data to the right people in the right place at the right time.”  Automation and connectivity helps with data standardization which, in turn, helps accuracy and precision.   

ICEGEIN clearly has a path connected to a greater play in healthcare based on the financial implication of accurate and consistent patient information.  Connections to supply chain solution and/or electronic medical record providers are important.  Most all RFID/RTLS providers in the healthcare space are moving or have moved in this direction.  The connection to insurance companies is certainly a place these providers hope to be. The Surana Group’s acquisition of companies that specialize in bringing together hospital data with key information that insurance companies use – to me, this seems like a potentially significant market advantage for ICEGEIN.

Now, ICEGEIN has offices in Spain (Barcelona), United States (Baldwin, New York) and California (San Luis Obispo), and India (Chennai and Chochin). They have chosen to go with their own branding in the U.S. instead of rebranding through resellers, starting this year, 2014.  This should raise the company’s visibility, as well.  

In response to these potential synergies coming together Anand responded, “We are a very serious global technology partner.  Anything under the RFID/RTLS sun, we can solve. We have best in class talent pool.”

Nevertheless, it is easy to see how Anand’s vision of having a global IT company within the healthcare industry is a key play for the Surana Group.

Follow Me:

Read Me: