2017Weeknotes

What kind of system do we want?

Often we are asked “well, what kind of clinical trials system do you want?” And it’s not an easy question to answer, because providing solutions in large-scale systems can be difficult to distill to one line. The system needs to make every stakeholder happy. It should be future-proof. It should provide treatments for the patients who need them. It should just work!.

So we went about thinking of systems that just… work. When something works, you just never have to worry about it. You seamlessly interact with it, and you understand how to use it without thinking about it. My younger cousin grew up believing touch screens just worked. Driving has a steep learning curve, but once you master it, most people can do it without thinking. For a large-scale system that is designed for the entire population, that has gone through several iterations of regulation, that shares resources seamlessly, and promotes many other facets of life, look no further than the one below.

The electricity system of the United States has 8000 power plants supplying electricity to 3000 utilities reaching over 300 million consumers by transmitting electricity through 6 million miles of power lines. But to a systems engineer informed by design, the most important aspect of the electricity system is its intuitiveness – without further thought from the consumer. The best complex system is one that is intuitive for the people who are part of it and use it; a system that maximizes benefit while minimizing effort. So what kind of system do we want? We can now place it in one word: Intuitive.

The second most important aspect of this system is that it did not start out this way. Decades ago this system was unreliable for consumers and risky for producers. Does that sound familiar? It should give us hope that we can change the clinical trials system too, and make it intuitive for everyone who is a part of it.