5 Tips for Medical Device Companies to Design Home-Use Products Right

 In Healthcare Trends, Medical Product Design

In the past, medical device design companies and consumer product companies didn’t often intersect. Medical product developers were almost exclusively concerned with FDA regulations, while consumer product creators focused on lifestyle needs.

But that was then. Today, two trends are causing the healthcare and consumer products industries to converge:

  1. The high cost of healthcare is driving care away from hospitals and other medical facilities and into homes.

  2. Access to personal health data — often thanks to digital technology — has put patients in control of their own health.

This means that your medical device company will soon be competing with consumer companies for the same customers — if you aren’t already. This could be a great opportunity to enter or expand your presence in the home-use medical device market. But first, you’ll likely need to expand your expertise.

Your medical device company is already an expert in creating safe, effective, and accurate products. Now, taking a page from the consumer company’s book, you need to become experts in also addressing personal needs with simple, beautiful products that emotionally connect with people.

We have five tips to help you bridge the gap between traditional healthcare devices and home-use products.

Now Is the Time for Your Medical Device Company to Design Home-Use Products

Before we dive into our five suggestions, let’s discuss why you should be interested in the home healthcare market right now. This is best explained by a metaphor.

From 2006 to 2009, Apple ran their “Get a Mac” advertising campaign. These commercials featured a stodgy, conservative businessman meant to represent a PC juxtaposed with a young, hip guy meant to represent an Apple Macintosh. The Mac guy constantly pointed to the PC’s flaws — namely that PCs weren’t designed for everyday, non-workplace users.

This popular campaign highlighted a massive shift in power from technologists to regular people.

Because before the ads, computer makers were focused on two things:

  1. Their own business goals, and

  2. Their technology.

What they failed to realize was the importance of consumers. These companies got too caught up in improving the speed of computing and making more money from their increasingly efficient technology. But users didn’t care about the technology under the hood, and they were left frustrated because PCs didn’t meet their needs.

Apple took advantage of these frustrated users and created a product that centered around user experience, effectively stealing market share from PCs.

The healthcare industry today is like PC makers then. On the whole, the industry is too focused on the business of hospitals and medical products as well as technology. The people the industry serves, on the other hand, generally aren’t prioritized.

You can change the narrative by creating home-use products that balance business, technology, and user needs.

5 Tips to Create a Successful Home-Use Medical Device

Consumer products are expected to be about 80% accurate. Medical devices, on the other hand, are expected to be upwards of 99% accurate. This again explains why your medical device company (along with most others) has been so focused on technology. It needs to be near-perfect.

It also explains why you might struggle to successfully design home-use devices — as we said, your focus must partially shift toward users.

But this shift is possible if you follow our five tips.

1. Design Your Product to Accommodate a Wide Range of Use Environments

Products for hospitals and other medical facilities are designed with predefined spaces — like ORs, ERs, and nursing stations — in mind.

Some of these use environments are simple, like an examination room, while others are more complex. Regardless, the workflows for creating these products are well-known in the healthcare industry.

Conversely, consumer products are designed to follow users wherever they go. When designed well, these products adapt to and enhance users’ lives no matter what they’re doing.

Herein lies the challenge for traditional medical device companies like yours: You’re unaccustomed to designing for seemingly endless and unpredictable use cases.

To create a successful home-use product, you’ll need to talk to prospective users. Better yet, watch them test your product in their own homes. That way, you can build a deep understanding of the context and places in which people might use your device.

Also, as you can, work some flexibility into your design so your product can adapt to diverse, real-world use environments.

2. Form an Emotional Connection Between Your Product and Consumers

Hospitals view buying products as a business decision. Procurement staff members set out simply to mark checkboxes and fulfill obligations.

When consumers look to purchase products for themselves, friends, or family, it’s an emotion-driven journey. In fact, it’s well documented that personal purchase decisions aren’t rational. They’re deeply rooted in psychological forces largely out of our control.

If you want the average consumer to purchase your at-home medical device, your product needs to form an emotional connection with shoppers. Make sure your development team adds this to-do to their product requirements list.

3. Adapt Your Marketing and Sales Tactics to the Consumer World

Medical device salespeople typically have to convince just one person at a hospital to buy their product. Then hundreds or even thousands of people end up using it.

The consumer market is the exact opposite. Between the internet and retail stores, shoppers have seemingly unlimited options for every one of their products, medical and otherwise. Consumer companies are forced to constantly adapt their marketing and sales techniques to fight for the attention of easily distracted consumers.

To sell your home-use medical device, you’ll need a new marketing and sales approach that makes your product stand out in a crowded marketplace.

4. Design Your Medical Device to Please People, Not Just the FDA

It’s well established that a medical manufacturer’s top priority is to gain FDA approval so they can sell their product. This is especially true for startups who might have major funding or acquisition milestones tied to FDA clearance.

On the contrary, consumer product companies’ main aim is to delight their customers each time they interact with the product or brand.

Just like the PC metaphor, technical details and FDA approval are “under the hood.” Consumers don’t see those aspects of your development process, so they don’t particularly care. Of course, FDA approval is a vital checkbox to complete, but in the end it’s still just a checkbox.

Medical product companies need to rethink their priorities and shift the way they approach designing products to compete in home-health markets. The FDA won’t buy your product, so prioritize  the people who will. Frankly, focusing on your users helps your FDA approval process go more smoothly anyway.

5. Keep Simplicity at the Forefront of Your Design Choices

The FDA requires medical device companies to provide some combination of labeling, instructions for use, and/or training to mitigate the risk of bodily harm to end users. The problem is that development teams often give excuses for design inadequacies instead of fixing potential issues. As a result, the product becomes complicated and difficult to use.

Meanwhile, consumer product companies invest heavily in simple, intuitive designs. They realize the first thing people do after opening the packaging is toss the user manual (if there was one in the first place). Why? Because everyday consumers expect simplicity and ease of use.

Remember this: Complexity is your company’s problem to solve — your consumers demand simplicity.

These five tips are only a handful of the many changes necessary for competing in the home healthcare market. While the shift is a challenge, the opportunity to expand your company is attainable. It begs the question, could you be the next Apple of the home healthcare market?

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