I recently made a trip to the MD PnP (medical device plug-and-play) lab in Boston, Massachusetts as part of my work at K-State (which involves coordinating medical devices). I had two main reasons for going: first, to work with a couple of our research partners in the lab on an upcoming demo, and second to shadow an anesthesiologist through a day in the operating room at Massachusetts General Hospital.
We have a demo coming up (very) soon — at HIMSS13 — that we needed to put the finishing touches on. This particular demo involves software from K-State (the MDCF) interacting with devices from the MD PnP lab as well as an external system developed by a company called Docbox. It was really impressive to me just how quickly a program can develop when all the developers are in the same room together, and understand the goal. I had previously heard / experienced this, of course (it’s at the heart of agile development, which we used when I was at the University of Nebraska) but it was a pleasant refresher.
The trip to an operating room was something else entirely, though. It was really intense, and definitely unlike any of the days I’ve spent shadowing people in my own field. I saw six surgeries (the anesthesiologist I was shadowing was supervising two residents) — four laparoscopic and two normal surgeries. The surgeries were mostly removal of all or part of various internal organs — the first one was a partial pancreatectomy, and another was a cholecystectomy (gall-bladder removal). No patients crashed, which was good, and in fact most of the surgeries went entirely as planned. Also fortunate is that it turns out I’m not squeamish. I’d been warned that some visitors will just pass out when patients start getting cut open.
It was really interesting to see how medical devices were used “in the real world” — it’s a disadvantage that K-State doesn’t have a research hospital attached, because otherwise things like this trip could happen more often. That said, I learned a great deal by talking to the attending anesthesiologist as well as the two residents he supervised. I was surprised that, at least in OR doctors aren’t as bothered by alarms as I would have thought, though I believe the ICU is a different story. It was also interesting to me how much “low hanging fruit” there is — stuff like getting more medical devices to input their data directly into the EMR.
Ultimately, this trip was a pretty big success. The development parts (in the MD PnP lab) had specific goals, which were met. The OR trip was designed to provide more context for the work I do (with the understanding that I would share that context with the rest of the medical group at SAnToS) and it definitely also succeeded in that, though the benefits are less immediately obvious.