Developing a Medical Device: 3 things to consider

Contributor : Keeley Cheung

Publish date: 14 Apr, 2016

Hospital room showing technology and a screen showing the inside of someones body

Through my numerous conversations with industry professionals and health care providers, I’ve learned that it’s fairly simple to develop a successful medical device. If you are interested in how, keep reading. The bottom line is that a successful medical device has to be adopted, at a very high level. So in the following blog, I will briefly discuss the three main factors driving the adoption of medical devices—I’ve excluded population size because its relation to the adoption of medical devices is relatively obvious.

The device has to be innovative, yet adds value. To be successful in this market, the device must be innovative so as to not compete directly with existing and established competitors. Simultaneously, the device must add value of some kind. Consider this: what is it about this device that will make practitioners forgo their routine, and spend time learning a new technology? There are a few areas where a device can add value: improving user experience, patient experience, and lowering costs. This translates to a device that is easy to handle, minimally invasive, and effective. In particular, ergonomics of medical devices have been an increasingly important issue. Performing surgeries typically require the practitioner to remain in one position for an extended period of time, and so devices that are simple to use and ergonomic have become much more popular. Additionally, in an effort to save costs there has been a trend towards reducing in-patient procedures and readmissions, which necessitates devices that can effectively perform minimally invasive treatments.

UroLift is an example of such a device. It is a minimally invasive treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) which uses permanent implants to push aside the prostatic tissue, opening up the urethra without the need for resection. UroLift has been very well received by practitioners because it is easy to learn, simple to use, and minimally invasive. It also has the added benefit of preserving post-operative sexual function, something that transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP), the current gold standard, cannot guarantee. In my opinion, the UroLift System is a truly innovative and value-adding device, whose adoption will continue to increase in the near future.

Speaking of costs, it has to be inexpensive. Well, relatively inexpensive. The best case scenario is that your innovative and valuable device costs less than the existing products on the market. For most devices, that would be very difficult considering the R&D, manufacturing, and marketing costs. That’s why manufacturers typically charge a premium for their innovative and valuable devices. In this case, make sure the device is very well reimbursed. Reimbursement is very important in that it lowers the out-of-pocket expenses for the health care facilities, which ultimately makes the device a more attractive option. Also consider using contracts and agreements. This strategy is very common in the industry because it benefits both the buyer and the seller. For example, endoscope manufacturers typically provide health care facilities with the devices free of charge; in return, this health care facility must perform all repairs and replacements with the very same manufacturer. Through this, the health care facility saves in capital equipment costs while the manufacturer is guaranteed a revenue stream.

Don’t sacrifice the quality of the device. High-quality products are a must in this industry. The new best case scenario is that your innovative, valuable, cost-efficient product is of a higher quality than other devices on the market. The quality of a device is just as, if not more, important than pricing, especially when it comes to health care. For example, capital equipment must be sturdy because that means the device can be used for more procedures and will require fewer repairs or replacements. Even disposable devices like retrieval baskets used during stone removal procedures must be high quality to reduce the need to use multiple retrieval devices per procedure; in fact, for this reason, we’re seeing a shift towards more expensive, but durable nitinol retrieval baskets rather than traditional stainless steel devices. From the patient’s perspective, higher-quality devices are much more beneficial to their health, especially when it comes to reducing readmissions.  All in all, it’s not uncommon for a health care facility to purchase a slightly more expensive device because of its higher quality, especially if the higher quality leads to cost savings elsewhere.

Practitioners and health care facilities have a lot to consider when deciding whether to adopt a new technology. The device must give a really convincing argument as to how adopting it will benefit them in terms of user experience, patient experience, and cost savings. So if the device is innovative, affordable, and high quality, the likelihood of its adoption increases drastically. Pretty simple right?

Follow Keeley Cheung on Twitter for more insights on urology and other endoscopy markets.

a male figure showing sensors on the body

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