When developing medical devices or technologies, how can one ensure they will be adopted? The medical device industry has long wrestled with this question. Adoption within the medical world relies on multiple parties including patients, physician, hospital administration, insurance companies, and FDA.
The Medical Innovation Fellows at the University of Michigan (UM; Ann Arbor, MI) has set out to lessen the anxiety that often accompanies developing medical devices. Over the past three years, the UM-Medical Innovation Center (UM-MIC) has used a formula developed by Inovo Inc. (Ann Arbor, MI) to enhance medical device adoption. Each July, a fresh team of full-time, postgraduate fellows set out to develop and commercialize medical devices using the Inovo recipe. The “secret sauce” of the process, which is engrained in the fellows from the onset, is to discover which problem is the right one to solve.
As obvious as this may seem, it is often the most overlooked part of product development. Oftentimes, especially in healthcare, engineers create technologies and wait for business people to identify where it fits or what problems it may solve. Similar to a hammer blindly looking for a nail, this is not an efficient approach. By contrast, UM-MIC approach prioritizes the consistent identification of the best nail before even considering hitting it directly on the head.
Finding the right problem to solve is a process that requires a deep understanding of both the medical domain, as well as the needs and desires of both the customers and end-users. When attempting to gather information from these sources, past strategies included the use of surveys and interviews. More often than not, however, these attempts lead a product in the wrong direction.
Consider that humans have a high capacity to adapt to their circumstances. Many underlying problems can go unnoticed because they are commonplace. Therefore, it is exceedingly hard for a physician or a patient to say what they really need or desire, because they cannot articulate what they do not know.
By using an innovation methodology, integrated with observational techniques shared by Steelcase Inc. (Grand Rapids, MI), UM-MIC fellows are able to discover these needs and desires. In fact, clinical observations make up the core of the fellowship program and are used not only to develop opportunities, but also to create solutions. This is not without hurdles, especially in hospitals where regulations and policies are stringent.
This article, from sibling publication Medical Device + Diagnostic Industry, describes some of the best practices for observing used by the UM-MIC Fellows, and tips on how to observe in the clinical setting. To read it, click here.
About the authors
Jeffrey Groom II and Jennifer Stovall are with the University of Michigan Medical innovation Center.
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