Medical device developers and manufacturers like Stryker (NYSE:SYK) are changing their approach to design as digital technology becomes more critical.
Four Stryker executives discussed how the Kalamazoo, Mich.-based orthopedic devices giant takes a different approach to developing medical products and how healthcare providers and patients will ultimately use them.
The DeviceTalks Boston panel of Stryker executives was moderated this week by Stryker Orthopedics and Spine Group President Spencer Stiles. Read our previous coverage on their discussion of medical technology trends and more from Medtronic executives and Harvard University.
The following has been edited slightly for more space and clarity.
Tracy Robertson, VP Digital: We live in what is called “the age of the customer”. Forrester Research qualified this about 12+ years ago. It started in retail and spread to all sectors. It now affects [our] industry and the transition to that industry in a major way. What happens is that people bring their experiences – you do too – from home to work: “If I can click on it at home, why can’t I do it at work?” And you expect your suppliers at work to simply ask you for mindless transactions. You want everything the same at home as you do at work. And we haven’t been able to fix this or fix it at work, but that’s what we expected. He has changed drastically. The experience is now a leading purchase criterion, almost at the same level as the product or service itself. So it’s a huge challenge for businesses. CX – the customer experience – has now become what we call the experience business. We have to think about customers, our consumers, our patients, our customer ecosystem, in how we design the product. The design, the product, the brand experience, our people, their experience and the customer are all now integrated. It’s a huge burden for us, but we’re competing with all of these things. It’s not just the product. I’m sharing all of this with you because in digital, you can’t separate the experience from the digital. For example, we can create all these great products for our customers and create great data. And when we present it to our clients, if it’s difficult to digest or difficult to interpret, it’s not a gift for them. It’s more work. There are a lot of adoption challenges in digital. Again, we can’t separate the experience from the digital, and it has to be part of the experience. This must be a big part of how we start designing and thinking for our customers in the future. Otherwise, we will 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 to doctors and nurses to get the experience right. So we focus a lot on user-centered design. As soon as we observe the problem or hear about a challenge from nurses and doctors, we immediately come back with mockups: does this solve the problem? Fact this address it? We will go through several iterations around the design of a particular software or screen or voice user interface to ensure that it solves the problem that nurses and doctors are having. Once we get the hang of it – you can do a lot with just mockups and just design – then we’ll start writing the code. And even after writing the code: test it again, test it again, test it again. This human factors process must start at the very beginning.
Siddarth Satish, Vice President of Surgical Technology Digital Innovation: The focus on UI/UX (user interface and user experience) is paramount. With our product, we literally ask nurses in the middle of an operating room to hold a damn sponge in front of an iPad and open it. Think about it a bit. There’s a million things going on, it’s hard to do. We didn’t just work through this iterative cycle, we had to build and formalize human factors testing as part of our FDA journey. The agency began to focus more and more on human factors. We see it a lot in these new digital health technologies and during the pandemic through the EUA process with these home COVID test kits. It’s really a big problem. So we standardize and protocol a lot of that. It’s built into every release cycle, even if we push a few lines of code, a little fix, there’s the question, “Does this qualify for a concerted test with, say, 20 nurses to validate this that we did ? ”
President of Digital, Robotics and Enabling Technologies Robert Cohen: Human factors are part of all Stryker’s efforts going forward. In fact, we have created panels for human factors. It used to be that we would bring doctors into a cadaver lab when we were done. Now on our enabling technology – whether it’s software, things like that – workflow matters, efficiency matters, shortens the learning curve, what training cycle needs to be, what needs to be included in certification. So let’s take a new robotics software for a new application. We involve nurses. We have built OR simulation labs. We just built one in our new facility in Fort Lauderdale where we monitor behind glass. We have doctors, we have people at the supply center who clean the instruments and how to put things back together. We label everything. Thus, human factors, and then usability, are now included in all regulatory silos around the world.