Innovation VS Optimisation, a medical innovation workflow for beginners

Innovation in the eyes of the world

When we are talking about innovation, the first thing that comes to ones’ mind is scientific research, which enables a new technological function or changes an existing behaviour pattern. This change is accompanied with its corresponding sizeable financial return.

Graphic:Nathan Qin / The wheel of medical innovation

Real innovation is disruptive

Real innovation requires jumping out of the current system, thinking outside the box and solving problems. Moreover, real innovation includes transforming solutions into usable tools or products that assist users in avoiding errors and in enabling an optimal user experience. 

Innovation happens when you are the first to deeply understand what attributes of the product have the potential to create additional or alternative market value, and when you get it built. An innovative idea does not necessarily mean that the cost of product creation will be high, but it is necessary to be revolutionary when it sees the world.

Healthcare innovation and optimisation

An R&D professional is always moving back and forth between creating innovation and conducting optimization work. He/She eventually creates a good product after going through several optimization processes.

Medical device innovation often is based on new medical treatment protocols and leads to tools that match those treatment methods. New medical devices offer better treatment and convenience: they increase the success rate, reduce risks and avoid errors in the treatment of injuries and illnesses, as well as control the cost and extend the life of the product. These are all well-known standards to measure product innovation and optimization progress in the medical field.

The innovation itself means to overcome an existing product and brings more advantages and benefits, e.g. the SALVIA ventilator produced by Löwenstein, Germany, which offers an optimized process for comprehensive emergency respiratory treatment and provides more time for doctors to treat critically ill patients.

SALVIA ventilator produced by Löwenstein, Germany

How might we R&D it?

We don’t need to reinvent the tire, but we do need to revolutionize its purpose, so how can we find revolutionary ideas?

A well-established medical device manufacturer invests a lot of money and workforce in R&D. If you divide product development into different stages: “from initial ideas to concepts, to mature solutions, to final product design, and finally to validation and testing”. These phases are predictable, achievable and verifiable through planned execution.

Graphic: Yunhong Chen

Every company’s R&D has clear process guideline and evaluation criteria for the development work. The development of medical products, especially the Class III medical devices, has stringent requirements for safety and effectiveness, which require a large investment in cost and a corresponding amount of time for testing.

The purpose of making tool is to reduce risk and provide ease of operation procedures while reducing human error. Once a medical product is in the development process, there is no room for “error” in clinical use.

A surgical tool manufacturer must provide the surgeon with highly reliable devices that can improve the outcome of a surgery. Product reliability is quantifiably to compare, e.g., for coronary atherosclerosis, 90% is the current highest achievable success rate; for general surgery for gastrointestinal cancers, the success rate is between 95-99%. There is a data standard; with that, we can quantify the reliability of a medical device scientifically.

However, a reliable device will be an excellent assistant to the doctor; but for the patient, any failure could lead to deterioration or death, It does not matter if the device has 95% or 99%, reliability does not reduce the patient’s concern about his or her disease. When we create a treatment concept, it is essential to think about the feelings of the patient.

When is the innovation actually happening? We make our products “perfect”, with reliability infinitely close to “100%”, is that innovation? This means we are doing a good job at optimization, but it might not mean we are doing something innovative. During the R&D process, we need to constantly consider whether to invest resources in optimizing existing products or to disrupt them completely.

At WILDDESIGN, we specialize in helping healthcare companies design their innovative products of the future, and we continue to provide product development optimization services. If you’d like to learn more about us, how we can help you design better medical products and challenge the more promising future of the medical market, please contact us, and we look forward to speaking with you!

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Innovative designer & international business consultant, Nathan has multiple international patents in the consumer and healthcare sector, He likes the process of turning ideas into commercialized products and likes to share his insights within the healthcare industry.

Originally written by Nathan Qin, 18. November 2020. Last updated 14. April 2021


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