Medical devices impact healthcare costs
in many ways. Healthcare cost is impacted via medical device production
cost and price. It is impacted via the healthcare labor required to learn
and use the product. Finally, it's impacted via the product's effect upon
clinical efficacy. Let's examine how medical device design by a good
engineering development team can lower the cost of healthcare.
1. Reducing medical device production cost and price requires
that an engineering team optimize a product's design from the beginning.
Technical synergy, design elegance, and usability are best established
during the concept and preliminary design phases of a product's development.
Functionality and manufacturability must be nurtured early, because correcting
inherent disadvantages later is not near so effective. Nobody wants
to pioneer a new product only to have the competition find a clever way
to undercut its cost.
For durable equipment and instrumentation products, a broad working
knowledge of electronics, chemistry, mechanics, fluids, etc., can enhance
product optimization. Such knowledge enables a design engineering
team to preview the downstream implications on performance, tolerances,
manufacturability, maintainability, etc. Likewise, for disposable
products, experience with materials and myriad fabrication processes
is essential to manipulating a design concept while simultaneously envisioning
implications on tooling cost, production yield, secondary operations, etc.
Durable-disposable combination products (with the emphasis on reducing
the cost of the disposable portion) require especially broad technical
insight into all of the above.
2. Reducing healthcare labor can enhance a medical device's
attractiveness. Valuable insight for this can come from talking with
an anesthesiologist during surgery, peering through a surgeon's endoscope,
or observing the bedside manner of an IV therapist. A development
engineer or product designer who is serious and tactful will find healthcare
practitioners to be as co-operative as their institutions and ethics permit
in allowing such first-hand exposure. First-hand exposure to harried
healthcare settings and personnel provides a vital frame of reference for
designing labor-saving features and improved usability.
3. Improved clinical efficacy can justify a new product's
purchase. Products enabling faster patient discharge and improved
patient outcome don't just happen by chance. Multi-disciplinary collaboration
is vital to good medical device design. Clinicians and other healthcare
practitioners are the source of many outstanding product ideas. A
design engineer's comprehension of physiology and medicine enhances intelligent
dialogue with healthcare professionals and medical researchers. General
appreciation of the business of healthcare improves collaboration with
product management (marketing) and regulatory-affairs professionals.
Multi-disciplinary collaboration enables design of improved clinical efficacy.
In conclusion, healthcare cost is affected by medical device
design in many ways. Realize that the early-stage of a medical device's
development is critically important to its outcome. Insist upon a
product development team that includes broad technical expertise, good
biomedical / clinical familiarity, and ample medical industry experience.
All are vital to designing minimal cost and optimal function into a new
medical device. Good medical device design up-front can help
to reduce the cost of healthcare and to improve the profitability of the
medical device company.
-- Bob Reid
/ Principal / Reid Product Development