Consider this: A year ago, your team released an innovative, new technology. Fanfare was there, enthusiasm was through the roof, and the sales team rally was beyond terrific. Clearly, planets were aligning and blockbuster success was right around the bend.
Twelve months later, sales results lag far below forecast. Fingers are being pointed and the once-promising, can’t-miss, new technology can’t even get itself off the ground.
Sound familiar? Has this ever happened to you and your team? Did your new technology – so full of incredible potential – ultimately get shelved? Looking back, what could have been done differently to change this outcome?
Quality & Clinical Knowledge Gap
The root cause of what happened here may have begun long before the sales team ever got the product. The situation may have started much earlier in the design process. So says Martie Moore of Immersive Health Group, and a former Chief Nursing Officer, who recently joined us on Med Tech Gurus Episode #20 to share some insight as to why some “sure-things” sure don’t work out like we’d hoped.
Martie said most companies don’t, or won’t, as a first step, immerse themselves in the clinical area for which they’re designing the product. There’s a critical knowledge gap when that happens and, as a result, clinicians must adapt to the new product instead of the new product being a natural fit for the clinician.
Design of any product should always align with the needs of those utilizing it. This is not a news flash but it occurs more often than you might imagine. The goal should always be to produce a product that is immediately intuitive to the clinical practitioner. Ideally, the goal is to elicit a response along the lines of, Where have you been all my life!
Conversely, the moment a clinician must adjust their practice to a new product in order to achieve a desired outcome, the product already has a strike against it. The more extreme the adjustment, the less likely the new product will be embraced and find success.
Martie also points out most companies do not empathize with nursing and fail to realize all nursing functions are high-risk. Because registered nurses have normalized so many nursing functions as part of their everyday practice, they’ve not only made the difficult look easy, they’ve made it easier for companies to overlook their needs during the product design process.
Product developers must understand, if there is a protocol that requires the RN to step back and take an action that isn’t part of their standard approach or process, there is potential for resentment and, more importantly, error.
Kathleen Vollman, in Med Tech Gurus Episode #23, says product design must neatly fit into the normal clinical workflow. The new concept must legitimately and consistently enable the clinician to do the right thing. Martie added to that point, suggesting, for example, that color-coding for key steps, or differentiating steps, can make matters easier for clinicians immersed in life-saving procedures.
Simple steps like these go a long way when it comes to product acceptance.
To Focus Group, or Not to Focus Group ...?
Many companies believe engaging a focus group will help mitigate this issue. However, the issue within the issue, as Martie and Kathleen point out, is that a focus group can make biased outcomes based on how the group is assembled. Lazily selected focus groups can automatically lead participants to the conclusion the company hopes for, thereby providing false validation that the product is ready-to-go in its current iteration.
It may be. Chances are, it’s not. And companies need to realize and accept this.
Martie reminds us that this is why it is much wiser to first “immerse and analyze” in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the workflow challenges clinicians face every day. Too often, companies expect human intervention to be the step that bridges gaps in new technology. This can create significant acceptance issues for the new product.
It is only after the immersion and analysis is complete, and your product has been designed with that understanding in mind, that the focus group should come into play. Doing your due diligence in gaining knowledge and designing to that knowledge will allow you to craft the proper type of focus group experience.
Listen, Listen … and Listen Some More.
It is also imperative the company does not fall in love with their own technology prematurely unless, of course, heartbreaks are your thing. Reality is, focus group participants may tell you your baby is ugly. You must be prepared for that possibility.
However, if the company maintains an open mind and truly listens to the feedback and input it receives, it is quite likely clinicians in the focus group will share valuable insights that allow you to significantly refine and improve your product.
As such, you must be prepared for probable redesign work. Further, your company must be willing to invest the requisite dollars and time to implement recommended changes. If your product development team is willing to do this, you are likely to achieve your key goal: An exciting and genuinely innovative, new product that best supports the clinical area, is embraced and, therefore, is profitable.
On the other hand, if you choose not to act on the recommendations, prepare to hear that dreaded, snarky aside from your clinical customer, “So … this was designed by an engineer, right?”
In summary, begin by immersing yourself in the clinical area you’re seeking to support so your product design is based on a complete understanding of the clinicians’ needs. Secondly, ensure your focus group is carefully and artfully selected then listen lavishly to their candid feedback and take it to heart. Finally, be prepared to dedicate the dollars and time it takes to leverage those valuable insights and refine your product.
Do all this and the odds soar in favor of you delivering a can’t-miss new technology that helps change the world for the better … and makes your bottom-line shine!
Tom is a 35 year veteran in the Med Tech space. Having personally worked with dozens of new technologies. It is Tom's passion to enhance patient outcome by bringing new concepts and technologies that will help clinical performance.