When Delivering Medical Technology Products, Delay is Not an Option

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Boston Scientific Corporation has been a global medical technology leader for more than 35 years. Medical professionals worldwide use our stents, catheters, pacemakers, forceps, needles, and many other products to diagnose and treat 22 million patients a year for cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, neurological, urological, and pelvic diseases and conditions.

We’ve developed a lean electronic manufacturing delivery process that ensures rapid response when a medical facility needs a product right away. For example, a medical team may be preparing a patient for surgery the following day and needs a particular product for that surgery. We have a standing commitment that, when we receive the order, we will deliver the product to the surgical facility the next day. Our customers count on us to meet that commitment. Failure to deliver on time could delay a procedure and negatively impact the patient’s health.

The IT organization is tasked with ensuring that the infrastructure runs without a hitch in support of the applications that power manufacturing execution, inventory control, distribution, communication, finance, and other essential functions. In all, the infrastructure runs more than 650 applications, more than 80 of which are deemed Class A systems that are critical to daily operations.

Boston Scientific is an $8.4 billion global enterprise and a lot of the company’s growth has occurred through mergers and acquisitions. As a result, our approach to monitoring infrastructure and application health had become somewhat fragmented and reactive. Two years ago, we decided to create a global digital operations center to centralize the handling of IT incidents for all facilities worldwide. The objectives for this transformative initiative included improving availability and uptime and ensuring rapid recovery in the event of failure or performance degradation.

We’ve just completed Phase 1 of our transformation, which involved implementing TrueSight Operations Management at the new digital command center located in our offices in Gurgaon, India. The operations center staff leverages TrueSight dashboards to monitor the infrastructure and key applications at our facilities around the world. We’ve already made considerable progress toward meeting our objectives and we expect to achieve even more gains as we move through Phases 2 and 3.

The backstory

Before our transformation, we felt we were too reactive in addressing issues, especially for Class A applications. Most issues were reported by email, which meant someone had to check messages and then create tickets from those messages.

Issues with any of our critical applications pose a significant business risk for us. For example, an outage or performance degradation might impact a facility’s ability to manufacture products to spec, wasting both time and materials and delaying the manufacturing schedule. Or a failure in communication systems that service our company, our customers, and our suppliers could hamper our ability to have the right raw materials on hand or to ship finished products on time. These kinds of situations are not acceptable to us as a company.

In addition, many of our application development teams had to remain involved in monitoring their applications after implementation because we didn’t have a global monitoring strategy or a dedicated monitoring team in place. We needed a more efficient approach, one with a dedicated monitoring team that could free up developers from monitoring activities.

Phase 1: Launching the digital command center

The digital command center project has been a team effort from day one. Our global IT staff and the new digital operations center staff in Pune worked closely with BMC Software and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to plan and design the environment, implement TrueSight, create dashboards and reports, and bring the Class A applications under the management of the digital operations center. We launched February 1, 2017 and we’re very happy with our progress:

  • Instead of monitoring via email, we now have a rich visual interface that highlights areas of concern with color coding and offers drill-down capabilities for additional details on what is happening.
  • Approximately one-third of critical tickets are now intercepted by the operations center and addressed proactively, a ratio we are anxious to see improve over time.
  • We’re ensuring the health of our most critical applications worldwide with just three people keeping tabs on the console and dashboards. Previously this was either not happening or was distributed across teams in an inconsistent manner. We also hope to have a senior incident manager in each shift.

Today, if a problem arises with our inventory control system, if there’s a latency problem in the pipe that affects communications to our distribution centers, or if any other issue comes up that could degrade service and affect our ability to produce or deliver products on time, we receive timely notifications and respond proactively. Now we can with confidence respond within 15 to 30 minutes of an event, with the right people fully informed. What is most reassuring is that our response engineers are aware of the issue and can reassure customers calling into our service center. This is customer service in action.

Phase 2: Refining and maturing our processes

We’re currently in Phase 2, which focuses on building on what we’ve put in place. As we completed Phase 1, we brought BMC back in to conduct a health check on the implementation and assess how well we were positioned to achieve our aspirations. The BMC team gave us valuable advice on steps we could take at the beginning of Phase 2 to pave the way for reaching our ultimate goal: autoticketing into Remedy. One key recommendation was to ensure that our configuration management database (CMDB) is clean and accurate. This effort has helped us reduce event noise and eliminate duplicate tickets, making it easier for staff to cut through the clutter and focus on the events with the most severe business impact.

In Phase 2, we’re evolving and refining our application monitoring. We’re currently running synthetic transactions across most of our Class A applications. With basic monitoring, we know if an application is up or down. However, if it’s down, we don’t know why. We plan to leverage advanced BMC tools to gain much broader visibility into the layers of each application—for example, the network and the database—to help us understand the cause of an issue at a more granular level and to gain insight that will accelerate the resolution of issues and minimize downtime. That’s the kind of intelligence we expect to gain with TrueSight.

Phase 3: Autoticketing in Remedy Service Management

Our final step is to drive even more efficiency by integrating TrueSight with our Remedy Service Management implementation. We’ve been a Remedy user for nearly 15 years and it’s always served us well.

By combining TrueSight, Remedy, and the CMDB, we will be able to implement a lean process in which TrueSight detects events, correlates them, reduces the noise, takes corrective action where possible, generates tickets automatically in Remedy, and alerts the appropriate people.

We expect to have autoticketing implemented within approximately six months depending on CMDB enhancements. At that time, we expect the total number of tickets to decrease and those that are handled proactively to increase further.

Approaching my ideal day

In the increasingly digital healthcare industry, expectations for speed mean that we have to be able to produce and deliver the right products in the timeframes our customers require. As we investigated the various ways to support our digital business, we determined that a central digital operations center would provide more effective monitoring and enable faster identification and resolution of incidents. As our enterprise gets leaner and ever more efficient, our IT process leads in support will have timely and reliable metrics.

We’ve made tremendous progress and we’re getting closer to what I consider my “ideal day”: Someone calls our service center to report a problem and we respond with, “We know about it, we’re already working on it, and we’ll add you to the notification queue so you get timely updates on the status.” Or simply that that call does not need to be made, when we have proactively fixed the issue before anyone noticed.

 

For more information on TrueSight Operations, click here.

These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.

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Patrick McDonagh

Patrick McDonagh

As Senior IT Infrastructure Manager at Boston Scientific Corp, Patrick McDonagh is responsible for Tier 3 Datacentre design and construction. McDonagh is a creative, resourceful information technology manager specializing in Storage, Datacenters, enterprise voice, security and data infrastructure. Always a team player, in tune with company and project goals, he also has a broad expertise in operating systems and communications systems. He demonstrates leadership, initiative and ability to plan and organize critical multi-million dollar projects. A responsive and accomplished professional, he enjoys a variety of challenging responsibilities.