Put simply, the reason most people enter the medtech space is to make a big difference in the lives of patients.
However, the process isn’t always straightforward,
That’s according to Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX) SVP of Urology and Pelvic Health Meghan Scanlon. Speaking on the “How Boston Scientific uses clinical feedback to advance innovation” panel at DeviceTalks Boston last week, Scanlon explained how vital the early stages of product development can be.
“Early on, have a strong hypothesis for what your value proposition is going to be,” Scanlon said. “But, don’t go etch it in stone tablets. Use a pencil or an erasable marker and constantly test and validate it. Have an understanding of what your evidence generation plan is going to be over time and don’t let the pursuit of perfection be the enemy of progress.”
Scanlon was joined by Boston Scientific VP of Corporate Digital and Patient & Referrer Marketing Jenny Lee on the panel, as the two discussed approaches to product development and innovation, with some emphasis on the urology and pelvic health business.
A primary aspect of that business is treating kidney stones, with the long-time treatment being a long skinny scope inserted up the ureter to first find the stones, then break them up and extract them. Scanlon said that, for every one new urologist coming into the field, 10 are retiring, leading to what she labeled “a massive capacity issue.”
In an effort to mitigate the impact of that, Boston Scientific set out to look at research across 57 different procedures on three different continents, with analysis of thousands of hours of video, plus further analysis of available data sources. In this example, Scanlon pointed to the use of data and simply listening to other voices speaking to a problem as a driver in finding solutions to the kidney stone capacity issue.
That effort led to Boston Scientific’s StoneSmart platform designed to transform kidney stone care and minimize the economic burden to healthcare systems, and it lends itself to the overarching idea of utilizing data and additional sources within innovation.
“For me, it’s what do you hear, what do you see and what do you sense and then how do you surround that with data?” Scanlon said. “That’s the secret sauce that I think allows you to really unleash new capabilities.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, strategies shifted, and research techniques had to be adapted, which led to what Scanlon called “one of our beautiful COVID babies:” a digital immersion lab that brings together physicians from all over the world to provide new insights.
The ever-changing environment extends beyond Boston Scientific and the physicians utilizing its technologies, too. Scanlon said so much of product innovation centers around supporting and educating customers, but now some of that has shifted because of increased patient control.
Lee referenced a recent discussion with a physician who said patients used to simply do as told by doctors, but the patient population today is so educated, they actually have the authority in some situations. That has factored into how Boston Scientific looks at development.
“There’s definitely this changing environment at Boston Scientific,” Lee said. “We’ve really been focusing on, not only equipping patients with the right information because they deserve that, but they honestly expect it nowadays.”
The approaches taken by Boston Scientific have led to a four-letter acronym that summarizes the company’s road to innovation: LICE.
The “L” represents listening, namely hearing what patients have to say. “I” stands for iterating — Lee said that means being agile and, as Scanlon said, utilizing pencil or erasable marker to make changes when needed.
“C” means collaboration, both with patients and physicians and even cross-functional partners within the company. Finally, “E” stands for evolve.
“You have to be able to change,” Lee said. “We’ve have a lot of examples of where we’ve done that. … Let’s do things new in a new way. Don’t be afraid to pivot and don’t be afraid to be bold. That’s kind of our approach.”