4 Critical Areas to Consider When Designing a New Complex Ecosystem

April 29, 2016

Medical device developers look to solve problems in healthcare with a product or service. But for some, that’s where they stop short.

It is critical that medtech developers move beyond a single solution into thinking holistically about the care environment, the various motivations of users and stakeholders, and the opportunities to connect to a larger view of healthcare. If patients have a choice, they are going to favor solutions from companies that offer best overall outcome in cost. Additionally, a high value ecosystem surrounding a physical product can considerably improve a company’s competitiveness.

Understanding the ecosystem opportunity opens the path to successful product development in the digital age. Designers need to understand how their piece of the jigsaw puzzle fits to ensure the products offering is effective and successful. This blog explores the 4 critical areas to consider when designing a new complex ecosystem:

1) Understand needs of stakeholders and the broad context of disease to see where you can add value. A company cannot realistically be integrated across all aspects of a disease management ecosystem. Research must be done by digging deep intothe needs of the various stakeholders such as the patients, providers, and payers. It is also imperative to understand the medical conditions in the broadest context, while looking for any opportunity to smooth the journey from illness to wellness and in turn lowering overall cost and improving outcomes. You can add value through a user centered design. It is critical to determine where users want and need information. The product design should be relevant to the user and focused on what the patient will find most useful in their moment of need. To make the data more actionable, consider the hierarchy of importance and look for ways to make it “uncluttered” as possible.

2) Cut through the hype of engagement and use the evidence-based research. You should be asking “Will my users use it?” instead of “Can they use it?” Human nature indicates you will be most successful if you meet people where they are and not where you want them to be. It is better to understand the needs and what drives a user to be receptive to change, and then apply those insights when designing a product.

3) Choose your technology and design to make your product get used, not just be cool and new. Think well beyond the craze of wearable bands! Remember that sometimes what you leave out can matter the most to a user. For other ecosystem products, it might mean cannibalizing your own products to create the right ones. Look critically at your team’s skill sets, figure out what you’re missing, and then determine how you can incorporate those into your company and your structure of developing products so you can meet ecosystem challenges. This might mean going out of your comfort zone and finding different partners, not ones you’re familiar with.

4) Understand how the FDA affects your product and the way you’ll need to develop it. You might be trying to avoid having some of your ecosystem elements be regulated but most solutions will probably require Class 2 and above types of approval. Many clients are creating road maps for their ecosystem rollouts that initially give them the chance to put their toe in the water with less regulated offerings. They are carefully selecting partners and systems that can grow into the regulated world, and understanding that their plans need to be fluid because once a product hits the market things will inevitably change.