Richard Pierce, Theragen
“Product innovation” is more than just a term. This is a system used to create products that provide significant value. How? He balances three key business concerns: user desirability, business viability, and technical feasibility.
Applying product innovation to medical device development results in products that doctors rely on to prescribe, products that patients use as directed, and products that companies can maintain and evolve within the realities of their existing operations and budgets. . But what if the first business concern, user desirability, is the hardest to determine?
Identify opportunities for innovation
When treating at home, as is the case with the ActaStim-S, a wearable device that provides energy to stimulate bone growth and accelerate healing after spinal fusion surgery, daily adherence decisions are up to the patient. only entrusted. If your technology is like ours, it is clinically proven and prescribed for consistent daily use for months as directed by the patient’s physician. , the therapeutic benefits can only be realized with consistent use of the device. So one way to increase the chances of a successful recovery is to find ways to get more people to use their devices as prescribed. In other words, increase adherence.
In our case, we thought a companion app could play a role. May provide reminders to use the device. Or encourage people to use it. Or it actually provides data that shows the patient’s progress. There are so many directions we can go, and patients recovering from spine surgery have their own specific challenges and needs. How do you know where to focus your app development and how best to use your resources to do so?
Determining the product innovation framework
One of the reasons product innovation has been so appealing to us is the focus we place on reducing product risk when developing products. We didn’t just make sure we developed an app that post-surgery patients would feel comfortable using. Surgeons had to fully evaluate the app to be the deciding factor in prescribing our device over similar competing products.
Not only that, but if we decided we could build such an app, we had to make sure it was built in such a way that it could be maintained and adapted over time. An internal resource dedicated to app maintenance.
At a high level, this framework has been very helpful in guiding our thinking on developing companion apps for the ActaStim-S. Design thinking clarified how decisions were made about what to build, and from there, an overall framework for product innovation helped determine whether it could be built in a sustainable way for the business.
Leverage user research to inform product design
The process of creating the app itself began with user research. partnered with a company called TXI We specialize in product innovation and customer research. We worked closely with them to understand what we could offer to our patient and physician customers and how we could test the companion app concept.
We used a design thinking process to study how people interact with the environment and examined the challenges that spinal fusion patients experience postoperatively in maintaining a consistent treatment schedule. This was a big undertaking and we knew it could lead us in many different directions.
After all, it’s okay. Product innovation and design thinking starts with knowing the end user, understanding the problems they have and how they can solve them. We spoke to people who recently had lumbar fusion surgery (including those who were also prescribed bone growth stimulants) and spine surgeons who prescribe bone growth stimulants and review patient outcomes.
The surgeons we spoke with expressed some concerns.
- Patient outcomes after surgery were improved when patients wore bone growth stimulators as much as possible and engaged in regular activities. But…
- Activities such as walking can be painful after surgery, leading some patients to avoid them, which can interfere with healing.
- Check-ins in the months following surgery are sporadic. Tracking recovery is difficult because surgeons rely primarily on a patient’s memory of pain to determine how they are improving. Also, pain memories are notoriously unreliable.
We also spoke to patients who admitted that they were not always using bone growth promoters as recommended.
These conversations validated the potential of the companion app and helped shape the possibilities it brings to both patients and physicians. The version we launched has four key features:
- It tracks the wearer’s activity derived from the device’s built-in accelerometer.
- This encourages patients to track their pain levels daily (in a “pain diary”).
- View daily, weekly, and monthly usage (including number of uses).
- Displays a combined visualization of pain levels overlaid on activity and device usage levels so patients can track progress over time and see correlations between adherence and improvement while journaling can record time-related events along the way.
See my previous post for three lessons learned in designing the app itself.
where to go next
One of the things I find most compelling about the app we launched is that it tells a story. In other words, visual, fact-based stories that help both patients and physicians. that’s good Product innovation has allowed us to develop apps that solve real-world problems. A design-thinking approach helped ensure that the actual users of our device, the patients, had helpful information and the motivation to see that their prescriptions helped them to be successful. .
We’ve adopted a framework of product innovation and design thinking in building our app, which has led to positive app adoption among users in their 60s, 70s, and beyond. Their doctors know if their patients are using the recommended treatments and if they are using them as prescribed, which helps guide post-surgery recommendations.
Equally compelling, in my opinion, is that product innovation is not about creating “one-off” products. In fact, we still work with our product innovation partners, who encouraged us to consider our current app as a starting point.
Patients and physicians using our app will take the time to ensure the app meets their needs, always with the goal of improving post-operative protocol adherence and ultimately improving health outcomes. helped us identify new opportunities that allowed us to evolve.
Developing a medical device is a complex task. It also carries a much higher risk than other areas of product development. Product innovation provides medical device creators with a framework that always keeps the end goal in mind.
About the author:
Richard Pearce is Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Research and Development. seragenis a wearable medical device company that has developed a non-invasive stimulator that increases the success rate of spinal fusion surgery.