Medical device developers and manufacturers like Stryker (NYSE:SYK) are changing how they approach design as digital technology becomes more crucial.
Four Stryker executives shared how the Kalamazoo, Michigan–based orthopedic device giant is thinking differently about medical product development and how health care providers and patients will ultimately use them.
The DeviceTalks Boston panel of Stryker executives was moderated by Stryker Orthopaedics and Spine Group President Spencer Stiles this week. Read our earlier coverage on their discussion of medtech trends and more from leaders at Medtronic and Harvard University.
The following has been lightly edited for space and clarity.
Digital VP Tracy Robertson: We’re living in what’s called “The Age of the Customer.” Forrester Research termed that about 12-plus years ago. It started in retail and went through every industry. It’s now affecting [our] industry and transitioning into this industry in a major way. What’s happening is people are bringing their experiences — you’re doing it as well — from home to work: “If I can click this at home, why can’t I do that at work?” And you’re expecting that from your vendors at work, you just want brainless transactions. You want everything the same way at home as you do at work. And we have not been able to solve that or crack that at work, but that is the expectation. It has drastically changed. Experience is now a top purchasing criteria, almost at the same level as the product or service itself. So that is a huge challenge for companies. CX — customer experience — has now evolved into what we call the business of experience. We have to think about customers, our consumers, our patients, our ecosystem of customers, in how we design the product. Design, the product, the brand experience, our employees, their experience and the customer, it’s all integrated now. It’s a huge burden for us, but we’re competing against all of those things, it’s not just the product. I share all of that with you because in digital, you cannot separate experience from digital. For example, we can create all of these great products for our customers and create great data. And when we go to present it to our customers, if it’s hard to digest or it’s hard to interpret, it’s not a gift for them. It’s more work. There are a lot of adoption challenges in digital. So again, we can’t separate experience from digital, and that has to be part of the experience. That has to be a big part of how we start to design and think for our customers in the future. Otherwise we’ll have adoption challenges.
Dave Lively, SVP of product management, Vocera (now part of Stryker): We don’t write a single line of code until we’ve talked with doctors and nurses to get the experience right. And so we focus a lot on user-centered design. As soon as we’ve observed the problem or heard about a challenge from nurses and doctors, we’ll come back immediately with mockups: Does this address it? Does this address it? We’ll go through multiple iterations around the design of particular piece of software or a screen or a voice user interface to make sure that it’s solving the problem that the nurses and the doctors are having. Once we get that right — you can do a lot with just mockups and just design — then we’ll start writing the code. And then even after we write the code: Test it again, test it again, test it again. That human factors process has to start at the absolute beginning.
Surgical Technologies VP of Digital Innovation Siddarth Satish: Focus on UI/UX (user interface and user experience) is paramount. With our product, we’re literally asking nurses in the middle of an OR to hold a bloody sponge up to an iPad and open it up. Think about that for a second. There’s a million things going on, it’s tough to do. We not only worked through that iterative cycle, we had to build and formalize human factors testing as part of our pathway through FDA. The agency has started to focus more and more and more on human factors. We’re seeing that a lot in these newer digital health technologies and during the pandemic through the EUA process with those at-home COVID test kits. It’s a really big deal. So we standardize and protocolize a lot of that. It’s built into every release cycle, even if we’re pushing a few lines of code, a small fix, there’s the question, “Does this qualify for a concerted test with, let’s say, 20 nurses to validate what we’ve done?”
Digital, Robotics, and Enabling Technologies President Robert Cohen: Human factors is part of all the Stryker efforts going forward. In fact, we’ve created panels for the human factors. In the old days, we’d get physicians coming to a cadaver lab when we were done. Now on our enabling tech — whether it’s software, things like that — workflow matters, efficiency matters, shortening the learning curve, what training cycle needs to be, what needs to be included in certification. So let’s just take a new robotics software for a new application. We get nurses involved. We’ve built OR simulation labs. We just built one in our new facility in Fort Lauderdale where we monitor behind glass. We have physicians, we have people in central supply that do cleaning of instruments and how to put things back. We’re labeling everything. So human factors and then usability is now included in all regulatory silos around the world.