Medical Technology Industry Is Wasting Up To Half Of Information Management Budgets, Warns Expert
Clinical solutions firm Elekta has identified annual cost reductions of up to £500,000 a year in their technical documentation expenditure, following a comprehensive review of their documentation development and management processes.
The human care company behind some of the world's most innovative devices for the treatment of cancer and neurological conditions recruited document management consultancy Mekon to identify and achieve efficiency savings in the way Elekta creates, manages, uses and delivers information for the large number of documents it produces.
The result of Mekon’s Consulting and Implementation Process is a new Global Information Management (GIM) strategy which augments the high quality of Elekta’s documentation with keener global management, a holistic structure, and more dynamic delivery and deployment of information. The strategy is being implemented by a global project team lead by Nick Rowlands, Elekta’s Information Systems Architect, with Mekon’s assistance, and the support and sponsorship of Elekta’s senior management.
Mekon worked closely with the various Elekta staff who share responsibility for creating and updating content that directly feeds technical, clinical and marketing documentation, including clinical applications specialists, product designers, field service agents, and support engineers. Mekon identified net efficiency savings of up to £500,000 per annum and enhanced Elekta’s control over the development of information, something that can inspire even greater confidence amongst the healthcare providers and patients that benefit from Elekta’s clinical advances.
Mekon’s senior consultant, Noz Urbina, said that it was common for medical technology manufacturers to waste up to half of their information management budgets because they take an inefficient and unstructured approach to the way that they manage their data. Unless these firms implement a strategic approach to content management, they can be wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds or more every year, he warned.
"Alongside their core product responsibilities, engineers of various types are expected to provide input into the huge amount of internal and external technical knowledge and documentation that accompany every complex diagnostic and therapeutic medical device, from MRI scanners to pacemakers," said Urbina.
The problem extends far beyond technical documentation. There are overlapping sets of operational and reference information in every organisation. Some is for internal use and reference, and some for external publication, such as marketing materials and manuals. Engineers rely on, and input information into, all such documents. If they are working for a firm that doesn’t take a strategic approach to content management, these engineers are typically wasting between 30 and 50 per cent of their content-related time on wasteful activities instead of accessing or creating valuable content. In most organizations, instead of pushing content through such an inefficient workflow, engineering content is lost or left inside teams instead of shared across the other teams or customers that need it.
Urbina said, “Like Elekta, many medical technology firms operate in multiple world markets and need to publish content in multiple languages. Up to 50 per cent of internal content-related time can be taken up with performing manual tasks, such as formatting, translating, editing, and updating content across multiple outputs. What’s more, lack of automation adds extra process overheads, such as finding changes within a document or locating all the out-of-date files and performing quality assurance tasks manually.
"Localisation and translation costs are also often well over 50 per cent overheads that can be completely removed through application of best practices. The same infrastructure and skills upgrades that support the clinical product operational and technical maintenance information also benefit the product management, training and even marketing content."
Tom Beazley, Vice-President Servicesat Elekta said, “In a global, export-led market, we need tools that enable us to transform the way we deliver value to our customers. The development and deployment of information is key to delivering value to customers. The global information value chain starts with the inception of an idea, through to the development of intelligent and resource-efficient solutions that deliver positive patient outcomes, and ends with best-in-class delivery of information that healthcare providers can use with confidence to reassure their patients.”
One of the major challenges facing medical technology manufacturers is information reuse and knowledge management, Urbina explains. Several different departments may be working on a particular technical document, such as a user manual, and it can be difficult to share locally-generated information with other departments, much less the outside world. This distributed base of information, held in local libraries rather than on a central, auditable, and access-controlled system, means that field experience and knowledge is rarely captured into official channels, making it much more difficult to share and reuse across a company. This can have a seriously detrimental effect on efficiency. For firms in the medical technology sector – who may employ hundreds of engineers working on numerous products and thus documents – the inefficiencies and associated costs can run into the millions of pounds.
"And it’s not just about the money,” said Urbina. “There are also numerous ‘soft gains’ such as more consistent, more structured content; different navigation options; content syndication and change notifications; the ability to deliver content in customers’ desired format and browsable web-based instances of documents wherever they’re needed.”
Beazley said, “Elekta’s acquisition strategy has seen incredible success and growth over the last seven years, but with this comes diverse working practices, technologies, storage and access points. Elekta was operating numerous servers, websites, document sets and knowledge bases. The diversity of processes and content that had to be managed across Elekta’s business units required a form of external consultancy, new technology and tools that were adaptable to the business, but based on a common platform and the latest industry standards to maintain document quality, enhance consistency, and deliver economies of scale.”
"Mekon’s consultants worked with us to provide a cross-departmental understanding of how information management strategy can be improved and to identify potential cost savings. They started with a day of on-site staff interviews to gather priorities, goals and a picture of the business from a process and priorities point of view. Mekon then analysed the information gathered and delivered a management-oriented presentation and report which demonstrated the benefits to the business, employees, customers, healthcare professionals and patients. This report helped us to raise staff awareness of content issues and options as well as illustrating how, why and where existing content creation, management and delivery strategies can be improved.”
Urbina said, “Not many management teams offer the support and understanding like the senior management at Elekta gave its Global Information Management project. Many struggle to let go of old processes or tools to recognise the potential and value that content and knowledge infrastructure investments have to offer. Elekta’s senior management connected with the vision, empowering Mekon’s Consulting and Implementation Process to structure the project for optimum success, meaning we were encouraged to recommend any new required technologies and facilitate change management in regard to working practices from the initial Mekon Content Strategy Audittm through to tool selection and implementation.
"Moving to a structure and reuse-based strategy paves the information highway to dynamic interactive publishing, intranet solutions and real cross-departmental collaboration platforms. Elekta’s employees and managers recognise the benefits of these tools to healthcare professionals and patients, not just the internal benefits to the company.”
Andy Scott, Elekta’s Service Engineering & Documentation Manager, and the GIM Project Sponsor said, “Radical change to working practices can be met with resistance, and this was anticipated. However the Global Information Management program, and in particular the content management module, acted as a common denominator where everyone, irrespective of geography, language, culture and business unit has seen the collective benefits of the strategy. As Elekta will continue to grow, with Mekon we have implemented an information infrastructure that can respond to business demand just by adding new modules.”
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Elekta is a human care company pioneering significant innovations and clinical solutions for treating cancer and brain disorders. The company develops sophisticated, state-of-the-art tools and treatment planning systems for radiation therapy and radiosurgery, as well as workflow enhancing software systems across the spectrum of cancer care.
Stretching the boundaries of science and technology, providing intelligent and resource-efficient solutions that offer confidence to both healthcare providers and patients, Elekta aims to improve, prolong and even save patient lives, making the future possible today.
Today, Elekta solutions in oncology and neurosurgery are used in over 5,000 hospitals globally, and every day more than 100,000 patients receive diagnosis, treatment or follow-up with the help of a solution from the Elekta Group.
Elekta employs around 2,500 employees globally. The corporate headquarter is located in Stockholm, Sweden, and the company is listed on the Nordic Exchange under the ticker EKTAb.
About Mekon Ltd:
Founded in 1990, Mekon are leading UK consultants and systems integrators. We are focused on increasing the effectiveness of your content creation, management and delivery.
Struggling with insufficient staff and ever increasing demand for output, organisations today require a customised roadmap to project success that incorporates best practice, risk management and ROI-led planning. Mekon provide a well-defined, end-to-end methodology and service that balances strategic guidance and training with the technical capabilities to make a solution a reality. We specialise in systems that allow reuse and recombination of content for flexible, scalable two-way publication, across multiple formats.
Extensive experience with the all major publishing, DITA, S1000D and XML technology vendors gives Mekon a unique and un-biased insight into which technologies are suitable for specific client needs. We are one of the few organisations to successfully implement XML (DITA) in both the non-technical enterprise content space and traditional technical and professional publishing. As a result Mekon are ideally placed to help you use your content as a strategic business asset.
Most recently Mekon contributed the well received FrameMaker Adapter component for the DITA OpenToolkit and continues to provide leading Authoring products for the S1000D community.
Mekon is a UK consultant, specialising in document and data management consultancy.