Human-centered R&D design for Medical Technology

Explosive population growth. Aging populations. Inadequate access to quality healthcare in the poorest parts of the world. Medical technologies that aren’t getting the job done. To handle these challenges, medical-device makers will have to take a whole new approach to innovation. R&D in this space is no longer just about tweaking existing products to make incremental improvements. It’s about creating breakthrough devices through human centered R&D design. These devices will reinvent how healthcare is delivered and generate unprecedented new value for patients, providers, and payers alike. This includes :

Lowering healthcare costs

Enhancing quality of care

Personalizing care for patients

How will all this happen?

Next-generation medical devices will be designed and developed with users’ needs and experiences top of mind for R&D teams. They will not only with scientific advancements in product components as the primary focus.

We call it context-driven development. It focuses on R&D approaches called Design Thinking and Design Doing. Among progressive device makers today, it’s replacing classic waterfall development as the wellspring for innovation.

Enter . . . Design Thinking and Design Doing

Design Thinking is a human-centered approach to solving complex problems. Multidisciplinary teams come together to manufacture new products, solutions, and business processes—asking questions like:

Who’ll use this device?

What does each different set of users want from it?

In what respects are different users struggling with devices available now?

How can we ease those pain points?

Through Design Doing, a diverse team comprising designers, software developers, and hardware engineers quickly develops functional prototypes. Team members test “thin slices”—simple elements of the device’s functionality that could be valuable. It could potentially be released to production, such as a specific device feature—with real users. Then they draw on users’ feedback to prove or disprove the device’s value. They iterate as needed to bring the most promising solutions to market.

Result? Faster speed to value. And products that score user centricity and a resounding success in the marketplace by challenging the status quo and, even better, by creating something entirely new.

Ready, set . . . Ideate. Plan. Develop.

To get the most from their traditional plus context-driven innovation efforts, medical-device companies will need to embed Design Thinking and Design Doing in their existing R&D processes. That’s not easy. However, human centered R&D design and some savvy tactics which are tailored to the ideating, planning and development phases of innovation can help.

Ideate– Bring together people who have expertise in “emotional engineering,” “intelligent engineering” and “technology engineering.”

Plan– Allocate R&D funds through a venture-capital mindset i.e. funding shorter time periods of a larger portfolio of ideas.

Develop– In addition to traditional “milestones,” define “yardstones” i.e. frequent, user-focused reviews of “thin slices” of a device in development.

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