Many medical-device manufacturers still have the perception that innovating new medical products requires long development times and high development costs. That doesn't have to be the case.
At Nottingham-Spirk Design Associates, we've been helping medical-device makers reverse that perception and to apply fast innovation techniques learned from 38 years of creating successful consumer products like the Spinbrush — the largest-selling oral-care appliance — Sherwin- Williams' Twist & Pour paint container system, Swiffer SweeperVac and more than 540 commercialized patents for our client companies.
Health-care professionals are also consumers and it pays to consider that when innovating new medical products. In today's increasingly fast-paced market, the aim for designers is to help medical-device clients develop “outside the box” product ideas and solutions that lead to innovative, ergonomically designed and profitable products.
In our case, the objective is to help medical original equipment manufacturers to deliver products to market in a cost-effective and timely manner by applying design, engineering and marketing expertise from the consumer field to the ever-growing medical and health-care fields. Furthermore, as home health care accelerates, this connection of consumer and medical fields is even more important.
Let me provide our process as an example.
To reduce health-care product creation and development costs and to reduce the time it takes to bring these products to market, Nottingham-Spirk follows a proven, seamless innovation system, all at one location. We have demonstrated that we can create user-desired products using an integrated product innovation process:
* Initial market analysis to review existing competitive products and discover opportunity areas. Analyze current trends for potential new product ideas.
* Discuss & Discover Groups, a trademarked process to evaluate the customer's unspoken and unmet needs through close observation of their interaction with existing products.
* Assemble customer focus groups or one-on-one interviews in settings that replicate end-user facilities designed to emulate product usage and to assess current product concepts and prototypes in order to further refine and enhance ongoing product development. For instance, we have replicated hospital rooms in our facility and have had health-care professionals come in to use and evaluate product prototypes in a natural setting.
The process then flows into rapid prototyping, engineering and feasibility testing that can be developed into intellectual property for products that fulfill customer needs and enhance the function and quality of those products. By following these consumer product techniques, we are able to use our expertise in translating the learning and insight into valuable information that helps to determine a creative direction for the development of the product.
This process can allow clients to experience higher profit margins and compressed development times, while providing a product the customer really wants. In addition, we further reduce the cost of product innovation by offering “shared-risk” development programs.
We have a built-in geographical advantage. Being situated on the Cleveland Clinic/University Hospitals campus in northeast Ohio not only gives us access to world-class physicians and health-care professionals, but presents the opportunity to work closely with these professionals to provide ongoing qualitative and quantitative feedback on new and innovative medical-device concepts.
The medical-device market has become one of the fastest-growing segments in today's economy. To serve it properly, it's vital that designers and manufacturers learn from other end markets, and apply those lessons to help create a seamless invention and delivery process. That process should provide the same cost-saving benefits and product development advantages to medical devices as we might see on the shelves of our local supermarkets, big-box and hardware stores.
John Nottingham is co-president of Nottingham-Spirk Design Associates of Cleveland, which has designed products for such firms as Procter & Gamble Co., Little Tikes and Royal Appliance Manufacturing Co.