The advent of complex medical devices has triggered a renaissance of sorts and imposed a new set of demands on the healthcare industry. Intelligent medical equipment now connect to a central location, enabling key stakeholders to glean insights from historical data collected over time.
Glassbeam has been working closely with multiple key players in the medical industry – manufacturers of high precision power generators, CAT scanners, MRI machines, neuro-surgical equipment, molecular diagnostics and so on. The overarching use case is the same – there is an explosion of data thanks to all these connected devices and, there is a need for a software solution to manage it.
Addressing this requirement systematically would unlock the potential to leverage machine data across the entire enterprise including Customer support, Engineering, Field/Sales and Product Management. Each of these departments faces a unique challenge. Today, let’s explore customer support’s need as an example:
Most hospitals have a premium support contract with device manufacturers to ensure that critical medical equipment does not fail, which could directly or indirectly cost the patient dearly. This entails a strict SLA on support, repair and maintenance. Hence, any problem reported is extremely time sensitive. To tackle this, customer support is set up to remotely monitor these environments 24×7 for critical issues. Let’s say a motor in a large MRI machine had failed due to prolonged heating. When the support personnel see the failure being reported, they would have to immediately trace the root cause of the problem. The real-time alert usually never indicates the cause, it only highlights the symptom.
To truly diagnose the problem, one has to look at historical logs and observe behavioral patterns. This is akin to how a doctor requires the patient’s medical history to make an accurate diagnosis. This is where the “big data challenge” kicks in. Intelligent remote data collection solutions have enabled medical device manufactures to archive large amounts of machine data over time, but the tools required to help customer support zero-in on a specific log, are not in place. Consequently, the support engineer is forced to traverse a labyrinth of folder structures, not entirely sure which file they are even looking for. The end result – the terabytes of data collected never get used. In order to honor the SLA, a motor replacement is sent to the customer site. The new motor works for a while, but the source of excessive heat remains undetected, which eventually causes the entire system to fail.
As a short-term solution, companies resort to building in-house tools and ad-hoc scripts that help in navigating files and diagnosing specific issues. As the number and complexity of issues grow, so does the complexity of the tools. Over time, the tools require dedicated software developers, data analysts and project managers. This diverts company resources into channels that do not contribute to its core strengths.
- Glassbeam provides a combination of out of the box tools and configurable analytics to address this very need. Here’s how it would be done:
- Index all events over time, including key attributes of the machine, such as serial number, customer, model and firmware
- Provide intuitive search capabilities to quickly zoom into the timeline of events for the specific machine that reported the failure
- Overlap events from the machine with temperature data and voltage information
- Identify the spikes in voltage causing the temperature to be higher than normal
- Identify the root cause to be the faulty power transformer, and not the motor that failed
- Send a replacement power transformer, along with the motor
- Set thresholds on power and temperature characteristics to prevent component failures in the future, using proactive alerts
The resultant cost savings in case resolution time, truck rolls, rework and repeated part exchange is immense! Customer satisfaction is an added bonus. Following this strategy does not only help support operations, it helps strategically, by allowing the knowledge gained from a single case to be leveraged across the organization as well as reused for pre-emptive diagnostics.
In our next blog, we will explore how Glassbeam can be used in the health care industry by engineering and product management teams.