Observations relating love, interventional cardiology and lean management

The way to a man's heart is through his stomach”, says an old proverb, but according to our observations, the best access to the heart is somewhat downwards from the stomach. This observation was made as our Biodesign team, Alexis (Medical doctor, international bestseller novelist, and film director), Aki (entrepreneurial engineer) and myself (like Aki, but older and with a philosophical twist), spent some interesting times at the HUS interventional cardiology department.

Actually, and to be precise, the most common route to the heart nowadays is through the wrist (transradial), but access through the femoral artery (“downwards from stomach”) is sometimes needed -  especially if something like the aortic valve is replaced percutaneously.

All in all it was quite an experience to observe modern percutaneous cardiac operations including emergency angiographies, ablations, aortic valve replacements and septal disclosures, while considering possible improvements, new technologies and potential innovations. It was also our pleasure to see that patients were well taken care of.

Beside many cool procedures and technologies, I was impressed by something that could be called “cool professionalism”. That professionalism extended beyond pure medical treatments to vendor management and efficiency, to name a few. One telling example was listening to a casual conversation where a nurse told her peers how she had applied principles of lean management at home to get her son to football practice, back home and to bed – just in time. Wow.

A final remark – one relating to love. I learned that there is something called Takoshubo cardiomyopathy – also known as “broken heart syndrome” (please do your googling for further information). This means that broken love may literally lead to a broken heart. Maybe there is a need for better tools within interventional cardiology to tackle this, or maybe not. We need to keep on thinking.

Let’s see where our observations will lead us - hopefully to something unforeseen.


Biodesign in practice

In Biodesign, systematically identified medical needs are solved by inventing and implementing new biomedical technologies.

Developed at Stanford University, Biodesign aims at improved medical care by providing a novel entrepreneurial program to selected interdisciplinary teams and by creating new businesses. After initial training,the team is immersed in a clinic for a month to observe its processes. The team’s sole task during immersion is to identify 100–200 needs that have not been optimally met. After immersion, the team will brainstorm and analyze these needs in order to determine the most important and solvable ones. Eventually, one need will be chosen and a solution developed for clinical use and commercialization.

During the brainstorming and development phase, the team will be aided by a network of mentors, coaches, and stakeholders: clinicians, patient group representatives, scientists, engineers, IT experts, designers, and entrepreneurs. Depending on the technical or medical problem at hand, volunteer experts are asked to participate in some of the brainstorming sessions. One or two teams will participate in Biodesign training in each year; most of them are expected to lead to commercialization either in startups or existing companies.


Project manager:
Heikki Nieminen

Postal address:
Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering, Aalto University School of Science P.O. Box 12200, FI-00076 AALTO, Finland

Visiting Address:
Rakentajanaukio 2 C 02150 Espoo, Finland

Otto Olavinen