Corathers Health Consulting
Dedicated to the Advancement of Healthcare Innovations



Qualitative Research for Surgical Technology Development

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Certainly, not all new technologies succeed—a serious issue for companies aspiring to create groundbreaking advances in the state of the art.  Although there is always risk associated with new technologies, many failures stem from problems not with the fundamental technology but with problems that can be avoided by appropriately involving the end users in the design process itself.

Early in the problem-identification phase, working with a broad sampling of surgeons makes it possible to identify where to best apply new technologies.  Often, a single technology can be used in several applications, and VOC enables a company to determine where to apply it so that it best fits the values of the users and solves their perceived problems.  Such studies with surgeons can potentially forestall costly product failures and possibly maximize the commercial value of disruptive technologies (game-changing breakthroughs).  There is even the chance that sophisticated qualitative research findings may lead to the discovery of completely new markets.

Later, when creating a product around a useful technology, involving VOC in the design of the user interface can conceivably increase adoption rates.  Disruptive technology moves quickly, and it is often difficult to convince users to learn new techniques and new tools.  This can be especially true for busy, influential surgeons.

When people learn new tools, they form an internal model of the tool and how it works. Whole companies have made their name by shrewdly matching the interaction paradigm for their products to existing paradigms the users already know.

When healthcare providers learn new tools and continue to use them, they can build a certain comfort level for the tool and the usage.  Savvy companies can match their products to existing user friendly perceptions held in the minds of the surgeons.  Given the demands on surgeons’ time, this ease-of-use is especially important for rapid adoption in the competitive and fast-paced market.  By conferring with top shelf surgeon thought-leaders when designing  the interfaces to new products, it is possible to leverage surgeon-friendly features and functionality in order to reduce the learning curve for new technologies, potentially contributing to increased market share, higher adoption rates, and improved spread via word-of-mouth.

Overall, the surgeon perspective can help technology groups stay on task, as patient care improvement remains the ultimate goal in surgery innovation.  (All Rights Reserved, Corathers Health Consulting).

Resource: D. Norman, “Some Observations on Mental Models” in Mental Models Ed. D. Gentner and A. Stevens. Hillsdale: Laurence Erbaurm Associates, 1983 8-9

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