• Product Ideation: Building a Device Users Will Crave

  • It’s been said if you board the wrong train, it’s no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction. The same is true for bringing a medical device to market.

    Often, innovators and entrepreneurs have a great idea for solving a real-life problem — whether it’s helping caregivers and patients catch a disease early, treat it more effectively, or stay healthier, longer. But in commercializing that product, costly flaws come to light, revealing missed opportunities that should’ve been caught in the ideation stages.

    How do you create a medical device that patients and clinicians find compelling and worthy of their dollars?

    In this post, we’ll focus on Phase Zero: the early steps when you’re shaping fuzzy ideas into one that’s worth pursuing and investing in.

    Begin (and end) with the user

    The success of your medical device will hinge heavily on two factors:

    1. The problem you’re solving or, put another way, the transformation the end user will enjoy as a result of using your device.
    2. The user experience.

    A valuable device is one that solves a specific problem for a specific type of user, and does so as easily and pain-free as possible. In this context, “pain” can be literal or symbolic of cumbersome steps, needless confusion, hiccups or delays.

    Think benefits over features, transformation over process

    While features do matter, what really sells medical devices (or any product, for that matter) are benefits, or the transformation your device will deliver.

    Here’s what we mean: People don’t buy pain pills because they want to swallow a pill or even because it features some fast-dissolving ingredient or minty aftertaste. People buy pain pills to stop pain. The benefit is no pain — not the pill itself, or whatever ingredients or processes were used to make that pill.

    Sure, features deserve great care in the manufacturing of your device, but it’s helpful to begin framing your idea from the viewpoint of the transformation it will enable for end users.

    Mind the experience

    We’ve touched on this earlier, but it bears highlighting. For today’s consumers — whether patients, clinicians or else — the user experience matters almost as much as the solution your product delivers, especially when competing brands tout the same outcomes.

    Thinking about existing market solutions, in what ways could your device remove points of friction, delay, confusion or discomfort? If you can save your user time, money or frustration, you’ll have a leg up over competitors selling similar benefits.

    To that end, it’s vital to consider psychological and physiological principles in your design, or how humans think and use products.

    Initiate market research

    Once you’ve developed a hypothesis, you need to validate it. Talk with key members of your target buyer/user audience, review “Voice of the Customer” surveys, and available literature. You’ll also want to initiate clinical and market studies to further clarify the opportunity, existing competitors, and their weak spots.

    At this early stage, there’s no need to spend a fortune on research, but you’ll want some proof points to reinforce and refine your idea, and help you sell it to internal stakeholders.

    Get the right people (and expertise) involved

    Medical devices are quite different from non-medical gadgets, and so is your target buyer’s tolerance for glitches, safety and usability issues. Getting the user, benefit and experience right is HUGE, but it’s also the first steps of many.

    Given the complexities of launching a profitable medical device, it’s in your best interest to engage experts early on to prevent blind spots from derailing your progress.

    As your device development progresses, it’s far easier to correct a subpar material or tweak specifications down the line. Getting the user, benefit or experience wrong, however, can be fatal to your investments.

    Related insights:

    Have concept in phase zero and need guidance? Our team of design and development engineers are here to help. Contact us today.