on April 22nd, 2009

Dear Colleagues

We have yet another in our series of complimentary 45 min. webinars entitled; “Major disasters in engineering and technical marketing (and how to avoid them)” This one is running on Wed 14th May. At the end of the day, we are all selling something so if you are involved in the technical world; an engineer, technician electrician…. this should be of benefit. See below for details.

Over a hundred very interactive (and indeed chatty) participants attended the PLC webinar yesterday.

The convergence of engineering & biology is creating an enormous opportunity for you - Today

I am convinced one fast growing area of engineering, which is not unduly impacted by the economic crises, is in the medical area. And enormous growth is happening here now. It is time to look at what you are doing in engineering to determine how you can apply this to the medical and biological fields.

Oddly enough, over the years, the healthcare sector has been rather reluctant to grab the  opportunities presented by engineering and even the more ubiquitous Information Technology (IT). For example, most doctors still work mainly with pen and paper, and shy away from any electronic record keeping (which would be useful to both doctors and patients). We all know engineering has been impacted by IT; advanced materials, imaging, nano technology and modelling and simulation. These technologies are about to be absorbed into the medical world on a large scale. As Menno Prins of Philips (big into medical technologies) explained: ‘like chemistry before it, biology is moving from a world of alchemy and ignorance to becoming a predictable, repeatable science’. And the biggest winners promise to be the consumers – patients will be more able to manage their own health affairs. To be perfectly frank (well, I am sure you are aware of this from your own experiences); doctors lack the knowledge to always make good decisions. The Institute of Medicine in the USA, estimated that over 100,000 Americans are killed each year by preventable mistakes such as medication errors and hospital infections. Patients now have the opportunity to take responsibility for their own health and stay out of hospital.

And as The Economist pointed out: “ Technology is making health care more portable, precise and personal”. For example - the million dollar machines being designed and sold now which morph the X-ray, ultrasound and magnetic resonance scanners to provide real images of your guts in real time Another example - micro-robotics which makes surgery far more precise than ever before (esp. for horrible diseases such as prostate cancer). In a decade from now, nano robots will operate in your body, at the molecular level, seeking out tumours and zapping them with radio waves.

Rapid diagnostic tools, with cheap testing kits, are being developed and released. Old fashioned pills, which often didn’t make it to their tumour targets, are being supplemented by silicon chips that are storing and releasing drugs on demand with a wireless signal.

Personalised medical devices, allowing health care at home, are really taking off due to three converging technologies:
* Telemedicine - built on improved data communications (and the Internet)
* Medical devices at home are becoming smaller and cheaper – (a welcome  shift away from “clunky medical monitors and creepy lavatories” according to the Economist)
* Very low cost medical sensors and smart phones are allowing a move to real body computing. 

Naturally, the Tsunami load of data generated by these devices still needs to be analysed and acted upon effectively by the experts…...

Telemedicine, though, is growing in leaps and bounds. One example involves remote medical consultations which are taking place from mainland USA to Hawaii for skin consultations. Another involves remote video links in India where eye-care clinics operate in remote villages. They are staffed by highly trained local women with the elusive and expensive supporting physicians at a faraway city hospital.
Obviously all this medical technology still comes at an enormous cost - we do need better economic health outcomes as we (and the public purse) don’t have unlimited funds. This is a discussion for another time.

But remember - this field is growing and offering enormous opportunities to you whether you are an electrician wiring up the new machines and installing home medical devices or a highly skilled mechanical or electronic design engineer contemplating a new medical engineering technology. Or even if you are a patient who would surely appreciate better quality medical care, at a lower cost and which involves staying at home rather than in an anonymous hospital.

Read up about it now to work out how you can leverage off these incredible new medical technologies – some of the fastest growing areas of engineering endeavour today. As the Old Testament remarked many years ago: “Physician heal thyself”. This couldn’t be truer with the incredible opportunities today to personalise medicine and indeed to take ownership of your own health. And this is where you and engineering can play a key role. Naturally, technology cannot substitute for personal responsibility – you still need to take control of your personal health and those you love and care for.

Thanks to The Economist for some inspiring words about engineering and technology moving into the medical fields.

The webinar: Major Disasters in Engineering and Technical Marketing (and How to Avoid them)
There are three session times on Thursday, May 14.
This complimentary 45 minute webinar aims to illustrate the perils of marketing so that engineers and technicians can develop greater awareness of the potential for real product disasters. It is to be presented by Terry Cousins, a professional engineer who has set up a remarkable worldwide business designing and manufacturing electronic test equipment.  We look at 5 different, but famous, marketing campaigns from recent history and consider the lessons that can be learnt from them. One of the crucial questions to be considered - Is innovation enough to guarantee market success?  This live webinar will provide us with lots to think about in an entertaining format…….. and enable you to boost the sales of your products!

Yours in engineering learning

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