This week has been intense. I have been getting to grips with the code of the central London financial tech firm during the week, and I have been polishing off my MSc surgical robotics project for a presentation. Luckily the financial area of the city has a 24 hour printing company, and I found myself hoping that my photos of my sensor set up wouldn’t lose too much detail when blown up to A0 the day before the presentation at 11pm. In order to be more effective I have started batching my communications. This is where I have turned off notifications, and my phone doesn’t automatically check for emails in the inbox. People who contact me on a personal note know my mobile number so I’m not unreachable, however, because of the batching, I get through a round of emails, Linkedin, and Facebook messages once or twice a day. I find it saves a lot of time and I recommend it to anyone. What’s shocked me over the last couple of months is the amount of doctors who have come to me, telling me about how they got ripped off. A hospital has even contacted me and my myGPevents partner asking for help after they hired some cheap developers abroad. I found myself saying the same things to multiple people so I have decided to write it up here, in order to point others here in the future.
Own your data
This is a quick one, but it’s the most important. I’ve came across one doctor who didn’t know the developers, or where the server was. He had an argument with them, they demanded more money, he refused, they took the site down and didn’t give him his data back. Who’s to know where that data is now. He’s also completely lost his business and, if his customers end up compromised because of this, they have some really good grounds to sue him, as he has acted in a reckless manner. Because it’s cheap, is not a good legal defence for handing over data to someone you don’t know in another country. There is an increase in cyber attacks. Ignoring the political warfare, the average hacker isn’t a genius. If they were a computer genius, they would get a really nice salary, enticement package, and resources to play with. I know of some UCL postgrads who got paid $9,000 a month in their internship at Facebook, and their apartments were paid for. There are some hackers out there who have different motivations, but the average hacker would take one of those sweet jobs if they could get it. The reason why there’s more attacks happening is that there are more “have a go” people out there who know nothing about tech, find the cheapest developer they can online, give them a bit of cash, then start collecting data and payments off their customers. I cringe when I am advising a doctor who has to ask a developer in another country for data to see how their business is going. They are asking for trouble. At the very least the chances are that the developer is using an SQL database. You should have access to the SQL workbench with your own account. Exporting the data to a CSV or Excel file in SQL workbench can be done with no coding within seconds. Keep regular backups of your own data at the very least. This won’t protect you legally if they decide to sell the data to someone else behind your back but at least you will be completely powerless if there’s a power struggle in the future.
Review the tech knowledge on your side
We’ve all seen a TV show exposing cowboy builders taking advantage of elderly customers. The same thing can happen in tech. If you know nothing about tech, then you are at risk of being ripped off. For instance, I know that if you code a category as it’s own object, then link it as a foreign key to your main data object in your model, you simply go into admin and add another category. No coding is required and it will take roughly 2 minutes. However, I have seen doctors charged to add a category, and told that extra coding will have to take place. The developer is either really bad, or they are squeezing money out of the doctor for no work. If you were going to court, you’d hire a lawyer to help you through the legal proceedings, even if you could argue your case, as they know the technicalities. Same goes for tech, you need a guy who’s got your interests at heart, and knows the technicalities. Most companies have a chief technical officer (CTO), who is a developer themselves, but has a large share in the company. The more efficient the tech development is, the more their share is worth. I appreciate that this isn’t always possible, but at the very least, hire a tech consultant who’s not going to profit from the money your developers are charging. These will prevent you from being ripped off, avoid disasters like losing all your data. They can also prepare documents if you need to take legal action. I’m always happy to help for free, just shoot me a message here [link]. However, due to the increasing volumes of emails I am considering options of gathering a team, including a guy who’s day job right now is managing the legalities of testing in NHS hospitals. If this is the case then I’ll update my contacts page to quote a consultation price. If you don’t see one on there, it’s free.
The would you test
I’m sure there’s similar concepts out there, I’ve found this to be very useful for my projects. I came across the concept when reading about colonisation in an economics books written by Thomas Sowell (black Harvard economist) [link]. He was making the point that colonisation didn’t actually make the country richer. They had to develop the colony in order to export the goods. An iron fist was expensive to maintain, and corruption in the colonies was hard to fight. As a result, countries that held colonies/empires like Portugal and Turkey are now fairly poor. Some African countries have big slave trades today, and they are not rocketing to new heights of wealth [link]. It became apparent that it was easier to buy off another country than conquer it. The two colonies that were exceptions and did turn a profit were India, and the Congo. This is of course one argument. I’m sure there are counter arguments to this. I’m not here to debate economics, I’m telling you how I came across this train approach to projects. However, this lead to Thomas Sowell arguing that it was British law and reputation that was the major cause of this wealth as foreign investors were confident. This pushed me to look at things in a what would I do context. Right now my money would go further in Nigeria. I could get more labor and land for my money. However, the reason why I and others are not lining up to invest in Nigerian startups is because we fear that our money will go missing with little legal support.
So you have your business plan for you med tech startup. Write down all the components that the startup needs to function, how you are providing this, and then ask yourself, would you honestly invest in this? For instance, if you’ve never met your developers, and they are living in a country where it’s going to be a nightmare to hold them to account legally, you’re not off to a good start. I’ve seen a fair number of doctors settle for things because they are at the helm and they need to make a budget work. They told me that they spoke to the developers themselves and that they had a good feeling about it. However, when they step outside their personal experiences/feelings and add up the cold hard facts, they soon see the error in their plans.