Worldwide Medical Costs Declining (in part) Thanks to XML!

OK – maybe the recently reported, substantial drop in worldwide medical costs isn’t entirely due to XML publishing technologies…but it’s one good example. All across the healthcare industries, companies and providers are adopting new methods and technologies that are helping them reduce cost and – finally – contain runaway expenses.

In the medical device industry, content-related costs have been growing rapidly over the past 20 years. But recently, companies like Medtronic, J&J, and Stryker have adopted XML publishing as a powerful way to reduce turnaround, cost, and risk – making their products more price-competitive around the world.

For instance, Medtronic implemented an XML content management system from our Vasont division to cut the time and cost of their translation/localization process by 50% – as one Technical Communications Manager there said recently, “We process ten times more content with the same headcount – this wouldn’t be possible without XML.”

XML is just one of the automation technologies offered by TransPerfect Medical Device Solutions to help manufacturers lower their content cost and risk and increase productivity – or, automate the entire labeling process with our EnCompass system. At TransPerfect, we’re helping to drive down the cost of healthcare – and increase profitability for our clients!

Medical Device Business “Too Hard”…for Google (?!)

Admitting something is “too hard” isn’t common at Google…but if you go to 28:54 of this video, you’ll hear Sergey Brin and Larry Page explain why medical device/healthcare is one of those areas.

Aside from feeling a little self-satisfied that you’re doing something that’s too difficult for Google, there are other points to consider here. Sure, device regulation is complex and difficult – and sometimes a little capricious and illogical. Still, regulation is meant to protect public health from faulty devices and bad actors – not everyone who makes a medical device puts patient safety first (witness the PIP breast implant scandal).

This is a common refrain from new technology companies: regulation is stifling innovation. The battle between taxicabs and Uber is one example. However, part of the cost of a cab comes from liability insurance – you can sue the cab company if you’re injured – a pedestrian can sue the company if they are struck by a cab…who are you going to sue if you’re struck by an Uber?

Technology companies (and some device companies) see regulation as an unnecessary burden, but many of these regulations are what help keep devices safe and effective. In this respect, a “least burdensome” approach to regulation is desirable – as the inscription above the temple of Delphi read: “Nothing in Excess”

 

 

“I am not in the office now. Send any work to translate”…

So reads the Welsh mistranslation for a road sign in Swansea, UK.

Apart from providing an opportunity to utilize my Celtic Studies degree (including Welsh grammar), it also offers a cautionary tale for medical device manufacturers producing mulit-lingual documentation  (see several other, riotous examples of Welsh mistranslations – thanks to Laurel D in our Boston office)

Errors like the one above are not really mistranslations. They are process-related: the result of someone who doesn’t speak the language copy-and-pasting content that they thought was correct. As part of our ISO 13485/ISO 14971-certified QMS, we keep process statistics on errors like this. We know that DTP-related, copy-paste errors are among the most common..and hazardous. In fact, about half of the serious translation errors we find (may result in patient harm) are the result of DTP processes.

This is one big reason why XML publishing is such a benefit for medical device manufacturers. XML publishing with a component content management system (like Vasont or Astoria) is the easiest way to reduce your DTP-related error risk. By virtually eliminating DTP tasks, XML processes not only reduce cost, they also enhance patient safety.

 

 

 

 

 

The Sweet Taste of XML Success

hersheybarTwo weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Hershey, PA for the Vasont User Group conference (Vasont is headquartered in nearby Emigsville, PA). Part of the conference included a tour through the town of Hershey and a recounting of Milton Hershey’s incredible success story: bankrupt 3 times, his aunt’s house (pledged as loan collateral) on the verge of foreclosure, a junior bank officer personally signed on a last-chance loan to fill an order that enabled Hershey to repay his debts and catapulted him on his way to being one of the wealthiest men in America. Perhaps even more remarkable, he used his great wealth to establish a school for underprivileged boys that continues to this day and is backed by a large portion of Hershey corporation stock – you can watch read/see the story here.

Medical device and life sciences customers who attended the conference presented on the cost and time-savings benefits of XML publishing supported by Vasont. And, although XML systems can be notoriously difficult to implement, a quote from Merk summed up the feeling among attendees: “There are no unhappy Vasont customers”  – this is a statement almost as remarkable as the Hershey success story itself.

If you are contemplating XML publishing as a way to cut documentation cost and time or are struggling through a current XML implementation with another vendor, perhaps it’s time to consider Vasont. With deep experience and strong references in the medical device industry, Vasont can provide you with the sweet taste of XML success.

 

 

 

What Do Walgreens and Medical Device Content Management Have in Common?

WalgreensAnswer: both employ automation to reduce cost. At Walgreens,  software algorithms are being used to help guide and standardize patient treatment. Based on “big data” from over 100 million patients, the pharmacy chain is proving that professional services can be semi-automated with helpful results. You can read about it here.

A similar scenario is playing out in the medical device industry. Manufacturers are learning that they can automate content by structuring it with XML/DITA. The process requires patience and effort (though easier than developing a software system for patient treatment). However, it yields big savings and risk reduction. Starting with the XML systems provided by  Astoria Software and Vasont Systems, and continuing through the translation process automation technologies of the GlobalLink suite, TransPerfect Medical Device Solutions has the services, know-how, and technologies necessary to automate your content and achieve sustainable cost and risk reduction.

Don’t Get Yanukovych’d

Yanukovych_WEB-readyShortly after Yanukovych was ousted as Ukraine’s President, the Ukrainian Parliament repealed a recent law allowing the use of “regional languages” like Russian.  Language has long been been tied up with issues of nationalism and national identity and can often be something of a “land mine” (not to be indelicate in the current, tense, situation).

If you think that these types of language sensitivities don’t apply to the medical device industry, you’re wrong. On one recent client visit, I heard a story of how the company had sent Russian instructions to a location in Estonia…not realizing the reaction that it might provoke (after the Soviet domination of the Baltic States). The result? Even though an exemption could have been written, the client demanded everything in Estonian and at a significant cost. The moral of the story? Know the political implications of your language choices when doing business abroad.

“Milder Than Expected” Device Tax Costs 33,000 Med Device Jobs, Impacts 132,000 Others

Advamed_for-web

MassDevice.com was a little schizophrenic in reporting the effects of the medical device tax, as outlined in a striking new Advamed report. According to their first post (2/12) the Device Tax’s impact was “milder than expected”…but their later post (2/18) states that 33,000 jobs have been lost in the industry already. So, what gives?

Well, it turns out that 53% of senior-level respondents had predicted “somewhat negative” or “very negative” effects when, after the fact, 45% actually experienced these negative effects. I guess that’s somewhat milder, but not by much.

At first blush, you might be tempted to say “this is an industry-sponsored report and exaggerated” but the scope of the survey suggests otherwise – responses came from 38 companies, accounting for 40% of domestic medical device revenue…45% had revenue below $100 million, the rest were above.

Other notable negative consequences reported by AdvaMed include:

  • 30.6% said they had reduced R&D
  • 10% said they were relocating manufacturing overseas
  • 58% were considering layoffs if tax is not repealed
  • 50% were considering reducing R&D if tax is not repealed

Not a pretty picture.

A Localization Within a Localization

fortune-cookie-1

For everyone who wrestles with marketing translation (sorry, localization), you may appreciate this story (and short video) from NPR.

Turns out, many Americans living in China miss really good Chinese food…well, Chinese food as they remember it in America, anyway.  So, a couple of enterprising Chinese Americans opened Fortune Cookie in Shanghai – a restaurant serving up the Americanized form of Chinese food to US expats and curious Chinese.

Aside from the humorous aspects of this story (the Chinese staff had only seen the white take-out boxes in Hollywood movies, so took pictures when they first saw them in real life), it does hold a lesson for medical device marketers, and the lesson is this:  sometimes a US-centric message, if it’s the right one, can be adapted and succeed quite nicely in the local market. Not everything has to be created whole-cloth, in-country.

The Most Popular Post Ever

According to Crimson Audit, Review, & Consulting, in over 4 years, their most popular post (by far) has been this:  Labeling Errors are Leading Cause of Device Recall.

With the growing interest in XML publishing in the medical device industry, this information is now more relevant than ever.  Our Astoria and Vasont divisions provide validated systems for device makers like GE Healthcare, Medtronic, and J&J because these systems can reduce localization costs by 40%…but, as you might guess, this level of savings comes at a cost.

The strength of these systems is that they manage content in a “single source” – there is one version of a content chunk (topic) which is reused in other publications or channels. However, if the content contains an error (in the English source or translated target), that error gets replicated out multiple times – this is a classic “propagation risk” and it has very real implications for labeling accuracy and device recall.

The best solution is also a classic: the quality systems principle of “quality at the source”. For translation, it means that appropriate risk management must be employed to produce XML -based translated content. This not only minimizes propagation risk, it also reduces the risk of device recall due to labeling errors.

Device Growth to Outpace Pharma Through 2018…But Then What?

medical funding

A recent EvaluateMedTech report from Evaluate Group predicts that medtech (4.5% CAGR) will outperform pharma (3.8% CAGR) between now and 2018 – that’s the good news.

The bad news is that VC investment in the medical device industry dropped 17% in 2013 versus 2012….in 2012, VC investment dropped by 13%. A good analysis is available at FierceMedicalDevices.

What does this mean for industry? Considering the time and financial resources required to develop, conduct clinical trials, and commercialize devices, it means that we will be facing a significant fall-off in device innovation in the coming years…which is not great news for long-term industry growth.

The game has changed for devices in recent years – products must now demonstrate value as well as improve the standard of care…new hurdles that introduce investment risks that early-stage VCs seem to be avoiding. Unless new funding sources can be developed (crowdfunding?) the medical device industry, long considered an innovation leader, may become a laggard.