Archive for July, 2013

Robotic Surgery and the Smartphone

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

Recently I was cleaning out a closet and found a box of old cell phones.  Each one was an upgrade in technology and each one was a reminder of how quickly technology can progress.  The collection of cell phones ranged from the Motorola StarTac to a “vintage”  Razr.  The latest edition to the collection is an iPhone 4 which was replaced with the iPhone 5.  The StarTac was once considered one of the 50 greatest gadgets in the last 50 years.  Compared to the latest generation of smartphones, it pales in functionality.

There were multiple reasons why this happened, but there were three leaps in technological enhancement that help to explain this.  It comes down to markedly improved capabilities in processing, networking and apps.  Data processing on laptops alone has increased 1000 fold in the last 20 years and continues to improve.  By 2020 it is predicted that handheld devices will be capable of several 100 Gigaflops (GFLOP), which can be 100 times faster than current home computers.  In addition, the cost  per GFLOP has plummeted from $640/GFLOP in May 2000 to just 22 cents in June 2013.  So what does this have to do with robotic surgery?

In a June 2013 Medscape interview, Dr. Joseph Colella, the Director of Robotic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center commented that one of the advantages of robotic surgery is, it is a computer technology.  We are placing a computer, in the form of a robot, between a Surgeon’s hands and the patient.  As advanced as that technology seems today, it will pale in comparison to what we will see in the coming years.  Imagine the possibilities when that computer’s capabilities in processing, networking and applications is massively increased.  We witnessed it with cell phones over the last two decades and we will likely see it  in robotic surgery.

In a July 2013 Medscape interview, Dr. J. Kellogg Parsons from the University of California at San Diego pointed out that the benefit is dependent on the procedure and the patient population.  While it still remains to be seen what procedures make the best use of robotics and which population of patients benefit the most from its use, this will become more obvious with time, just as we saw with the evolution of laparoscopic surgery.  Cost will need to decrease and this will likely happen with reduced costs of the technology and competition.  It’s hard to believe but we may one day be comparing current robots used in surgery to the old “brick” cell phone.  BTW, the brick cost $3,995 when it premiered.  With a two year contract the iPhone 5 cost $199.  Yes, it can happen.

Is the MD,MBA Worth It? (Part 3)

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Six years have passed since I began the MBA program and 4 four years since I graduated.  So, after all this time, is it worth it?  The one-word executive summary is…yes.  My previous posts (Part 1 and Part 2) reflect my views when I was in the thick of it and working on completing the MBA program.  Now it is time for further reflection.

7) One of the great benefits of adding the additional letters after your name is that it sends a signal to the market.  Whether you are pursuing an MBA degree or completed one, that information tells the market you are ready for a change and are doing so with serious intentions.  There is a marketplace out there that is constantly looking for new talent.  If you have an MD or DO after your name, then you are probably already on a specific clinical career path.  An MBA degree sends new information about you to the market.  The new information is, “I’m interesting in a different path than the usual one”.  It may or may not involve a clinical career, but at the very least, it will be distinguished by an education in business administration.  There is a market for those equipped with an MD and MBA degree, and that market is very interested in finding you.  This is one way you let it know you are interested in finding them.

8) Just as there is a language for those with an MD, there is a language for those with an MBA (or equivalent business experience).  An MBA gets you a seat at the table and helps you learn how to begin to speak the language of business.  As they say in business school, “If your not at the table, then you are on the table”.  If you want to be engaged in the business of medicine, then you need to be at the table and understand what is being said.  Your interests and those of your patients need competent representation at the table.  All too often physicians think their medical degree will be enough to carry them through discussions with hospital administration.  All too often it is not enough.  Typically my biggest contribution in meetings involving physicians and administrators is in translating what each group is really saying to one another.  It is interesting to observe how two groups can speak a common language (English) and not really understand what one group is trying to communicate to the other during a physician-speak vs. admin-speak conversation.  Being bilingual is an asset under these conditions.

9) There is another business school saying which is, “All roads pass through finance”.  If you want to get anything done, that involves capital resources, then you will need to maneuver it through the budget and finance process.  It doesn’t matter if you are working with your own small business or a multi-billion dollar organization.  At the end of the day someone will need to finance your dreams.  Understanding how that is achieved is key to success.  The MBA degree provides the starter toolkit for helping you understanding the “how” of this process.  It was once pointed out to me that cash-flow is like oxygen.  You can wake up in the morning with all kinds of great plans of what you will accomplish that day, but if you can’t breath, there is only one thing on your mind… “I need oxygen”!  In business, cash-flow serves a similar purpose.  To ignore it is to ignore a fundamental principle of organizational survival.  Being a person who has a strong medical background, is versed in the language of business and skilled in the art of traveling the road through finance makes for a powerful combination to help any organization survive and thrive.

10) When you obtained your medical training, you no doubt realized that there are opportunities for leadership development if you are interested.  When you add an MBA degree to your CV/Resume, you tell the world you are very interested.  It distinguishes you and makes you more visible.  A leader, I know, likes to say, “visibility leads to credibility, credibility leads to trust, so if you want to be trusted, you need to be visible.”  Leadership requires trust.  An MBA degree is not only a way to say you are interested in a leadership position but it can also serve as one of many paths on the journey to becoming more visible.  How you build credibility with this new found visibility is up to you.  The MD/MBA path opens the door.  It really is up to you to take advantage of the opportunities it will present once you go through that door.  So is the MD/MBA worth it?  Absolutely!