When thinking about product development, it’s important to use a multidisciplinary approach. Doing so allows for the consideration of relevant issues which will lead to an integrated product, which is not only more attractive to your clients, but also more useful. Utility is the sum of the benefit your client receives plus the satisfaction of its actual needs.
Utility= Benefit + satisfaction of actual needs
While product development in the healthcare sector is no different, it does present some distinctive features. Yesterday, we attended the “Daily Living & Technology for H2020” Workshop at Mondragón University in northern Spain. We had the opportunity to hear four interesting presentations dealing with healthcare and wellbeing products. Specifically, products made by clinicians with two specific aspects in mind: technology/techniques & the market.
How does a socio-sanitary product become a competent market product?
Ten fundamental considerations to transform your idea into reality:
- Take your end-user into account in order to identify the actual needs. Make the end-user a part of the designing & creating processes. Identifiying end-user profiles is crucial. Does your end-user have access to technology? Does your end-user belong to an age range that is reluctant to use new technologies? Is there something you can do about it? What are his/her daily needs? If you’re thinking about EU projects, you should know that H2020 requires end-user inclusion from project inception; it´s a requirement for proposal admission. And that´s great because it only adds value to your product, and keeps development on the right path.
- You need a multidisciplinary team. Just as in clinical practice, product development requires the same emphasis: a requisite, exhaustive analysis that entails specific fields (healthcare, sociology, neuropsychology, anthropology, pedagogy, IT, etc.). Once each analysis is undertaken by an appropriate expert, the ideas can be brought together.
- AUTONOMY= Support + Technology + Accessibility. Autonomy and independent living are the main goals when we design technology for people with disabilities.
- The end-user is defined by his/her context, an ecosystem of personal relations. What relationship model exists in the immediate family? What about the extended family? Is there any social support for the end-user? Do we consider them as end-users, too? Do we need the presence of other persons apart from the end-user (other family, experts, etc.) to make the product work? Also, the context has a bi-directional relation with society: people live in houses, with specific consumption habits; consumption habits modify society and business tendencies; and business tendencies modify houses. Economic context is quite relevant in the analysis.
- What’s the cost of NOT making the applied technology you are thinking about? Yes, we are healthcare professionals…healthcare professionals who want to prospose feasible products for the market. So we need to identify real problems and the costs associated with them. Identify the problems that exist in the market in order to attract protential buyers/partners/investors. Identify the social impact that not developing your project presents. Give data to support it. Remember: your technology is a SOLUTION for these specific problems.
- You need a cost-effectiveness analysis of your technology. You have to balance the benefits obtained through your technology with its costs.
- MOVE the technology from an institutional setting to daily/ecological/meaningful settings. And, by doing so, you release public health resources from claims of misuse or abuse. Be aware that if the technology is seen as something disruptive, your end-user could be reluctant to use it.
- Be careful with data and personal information. What’s the purpose of the data you obtain from end-users? Research? Product improvement? Personal health monitoring? Satisfaction surveys? Whatever the goal is: protect the data. It’s confidential.
- R&D is a process that goes from your idea to development and finally to the market. And the market is essential. Without an exhaustive analysis of the market, there can´t be an R&D phase. The market is a heterogeneous context. That heterogeneity brings us back down to earth: we may have an idea, but we need to adjust the idea to real circumstances. We have to conceptualize the end-user as a tech-consumer.
- Beware of technological overshadowing: Technology doesn´t do everything, and it doesn´t always necessarily make things easier.
Some other questions you may find useful for your socio-sanitary projects:
– What’s the sustainability of my product? What materials do we need?
– How can we accelerate innovation processes?
– Should we include satisfaction surveys?
– Is my idea a critical factor for demographic/social change?
– What’s the utility/purpose of my product?
– How could my interface be motivating for users? Does it need to include adaptability issues?
– Where’s the innovation? “Processes of already existing interventions” or “New interventions?”
We hope these issues and questions will guide your reflections before acting. We must be very specific in healthcare innovation If we want to succeed.
We would like to thank Txabi Gorritxategi (H-Enea), Adriana Martínez (APTES), Jon Ander Arzallus (GUREAK) and Asier Aztiria (EPS- Mondragón University) for their wonderful lectures.