Monday, June 14, 2010

Technology bottle necks, it's not brain surgery...except when it is.

I was observing the removal of an intraventricular brain tumour the other day when the importance of actually involving designers and users in the design process of, well, anything was confirmed.

The surgeons were removing a cyst from a patient's brain. They removed a portion of this patient's skull, cut through the dura, which is tissue between the brain and the skull, while avoiding all of the vital blood vessels along the way.

The next step was to place a tube into the patient's brain and insert a camera, laser, and foreceps through this tube and remove the tumour. Unfortunately, this next step almost didn't happen.

The problem? It could have been a complication with the earlier steps in the surgery, maybe they cut the wrong part of the skull, they could have accidently cut a vessel, maybe the child woke up during the surgery?! No, the problem was that the surgeons could not figure out how to set up the surgical equipment and combine the different parts.

Now, keep in mind, that this specific surgery wasn't a common one. The surgeons were not using this equipment regulary, but still, not being able to set up the equipment should not be the reason a surgery is delayed or stopped altogether. The problem here was that the equipment was probably designed by a group of engineers in an ivory tower somewhere without surgeons and designers providing input in the design process.

Technology should always be as easy to use as possible, especially when someone's life depends on it! Providing a complicated instruction manual is not a solution because surgeons are already excessively busy and most will not want to spend time reading a manual for a tool that they rarely use.

Just keep the design simple. Putting together the equipment should not be the toughest part of brain surgery!


Ganesh said...

Nice to see postings frm the perspective of a medengineer..keep up the good work..btw,are u frm India Anish?

Anish said...

Thanks Ganesh...and yes, I am from India.