Working on the Edge

If you are looking for a place to work or build your career in biomedicine or health, check the interface.

If you are looking for a place to work or build your career in biomedicine or health, check the interface.

Interface technologies are those that have products intended for non-medical use but overlap or bump up against medicine in the sense that they have potential medical or health care applications or seek to penetrate medical markets. There are several such overlapping industries that include nanotechnology, aerospace, photonics, telecommunications, financial services, and information technologies. In fact, some think that convergent thinking is a necessity if we are to innovate our way out of our present sick-care mess and that other interface industries have already tackled and are creating inventive solutions for most of the problems confronting USA Health Care, Inc.

Take Apple, for example, which almost daily introduces another health care product that could change how we practice medicine or do human subject trials. Or what about Google, changing how we do medical information and provider access search?

Consider www.carespan.us (Disclosure: I am an advisor to the company). The company provides virtual access to a primary care doctor from anywhere in the world using advanced information and telecommunications technologies. Finally, there are many aerospace companies applying their bioaeronautical technologies to remote sensing or monitoring patients.

There are risks, though, when transferring technologies intended for one market to another. Non-medical innovation is often the tail that wags the medical dog. Telemedicine products were video-conferencing products adapted to the medical market. As a result, they are incomplete. They don't embed the interaction into medical records, create a clinical note or generate a bill. We all use the credit card industry to process patient payments, but there are gaps or crevices in servicing healthcare payments because of the unique medical, third-party payment environment. Again, as a result, the solution is incomplete. Travel agencies are trying to penetrate the medical travel market and build another revenue generating vertical, but they bump up against the legal, regulatory, patient care continuity issues and a host of others.

Playing in the interface involves networking with people who are not doctors or health care experts, learning more about emerging interface technologies, and identifying health care problems that might be solved by applying value added interface solutions originating in other industries.

Get out of your box. If you keep your eyes open and allow yourself the freedom to play in unfamiliar territory, great opportunities will come your way.