How Rapid Prototyping can help in digital health products

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By Damián

April 24, 2023

Rapid prototyping is a process that enables product designers to quickly create and test multiple versions of a product to refine and improve it. This process can be particularly useful in the digital health sector, where there is a growing need for innovative products that can improve patient outcomes and drive progress in the industry.

Using rapid prototyping, digital health companies can gather valuable feedback from users and use this information to iterate on the product design. This can help identify design flaws and areas for improvement early on in the development process, before significant resources have been invested in it. It contributes to creating products that are more user-friendly, intuitive, and effective in assisting people in managing their health and well-being. Moreover, early feedback from users can go beyond the design decisions. They could help to detect problems in the value proposition or reshape the scope of an MVP.

Additionally, rapid prototyping can help to reduce time-to-market for digital health products, which can be especially important in a rapidly evolving industry. By creating and testing prototypes quickly, companies can bring their products to market faster, allowing them to capitalize on new trends and stay ahead of competitors.

Overall, rapid prototyping can help digital health companies to create better products that are more in tune with the needs and preferences of their target audience, leading to improved health outcomes and greater patient satisfaction.

Why is rapid prototyping hard for the digital health sector?

But of course, it’s not as easy as it seems. Rapid prototyping in the digital health sector can be challenging for several reasons:

  1. Technical complexity: digital health products can be technically complex, requiring specialized knowledge and expertise to develop and test prototypes. The information added to the prototype needs to be realistic and have this specialized knowledge incorporated. The received feedback will often have nuances from the field that will be understood only by experts. This can make rapid prototyping more difficult, as companies may need to bring together cross-functional teams with diverse skill sets to create and test prototypes.
  2. Privacy and security concerns: Digital health products often involve sensitive health data, which must be handled securely and in accordance with applicable privacy laws. This can create additional challenges for feature definition and rapid prototyping, as companies must ensure that they can collect and store user data securely and competently.
  3. Patient safety: Digital health products can have a direct impact on patient safety, which makes it critical to thoroughly test prototypes before they are released to the market. This can slow down the rapid prototyping process, as companies must ensure that their products are safe and effective before they can be used by patients.
  4. Regulatory requirements: Digital health products are subject to regulatory requirements, which can make rapid prototyping more difficult. Companies must ensure that their prototypes comply with applicable laws and regulations, which can be time-consuming and complex.

In a further article, we will share some strategies to deal with some of these challenges. But as you can see, most of them are problems that will be there anyway, once the product reaches the market. And Rapid Prototyping will still be adding value in several ways.

How Rapid Prototyping could introduce the value of product experimentation in digital health

Loads of Healthcare companies tend to be focused solely on providing traditional, tried-and-true solutions, rather than exploring new approaches that could potentially improve patient outcomes.

The factors that contribute more to this reluctant attitude are:

  • The high costs and lengthy timelines involved in bringing new products to market in this heavily regulated industry.
  • The potential impact on providers’ habits, team processes, and patient health.
  • A resistant-to-change company culture, fueled by fragmented and half-baked solutions that don’t integrate well with their current tools.

But this also means a potential differentiator for those companies more open to exploration and change: rapid prototyping can help to introduce product experimentation. And by developing a culture that prioritizes experimentation, iteration, and risk-taking, healthcare companies can create an environment that fosters innovation and drives progress in the industry.

Experimentation is a familiar topic to Physicians. They already know about how Clinical Trials contribute to the progress of their field: through this process, researchers can collect data on the impact of a treatment, identify any potential risks or side effects, and refine the treatment to improve its effectiveness and safety.

While the specific methods used in rapid prototyping and clinical trials may differ, both processes share a common goal of testing and refining new ideas in order to improve their effectiveness and impact. There is a shared mindset of Learning by Doing behind the two of them, as they produce a piece in a controlled environment with the goal of learning from user feedback and iteration to improve the final outcome.

That’s why we think rapid prototyping and user research fit perfectly with healthcare companies looking for a way to start innovating. The Learn By Doing mindset behind it emphasizes the importance of hands-on learning and experimentation and encourages companies to take risks and learn from their failures in safe environments. By embracing the Learn by Doing mindset and its tools, healthcare companies can shift to a culture of innovation that is focused on learning, experimentation, and iteration.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the benefits of rapid prototyping in the digital health sector are clear. By embracing rapid prototyping and other innovative approaches, healthcare companies can drive progress in the industry, improve patient outcomes, and ultimately shape the future of healthcare. Investing in the necessary resources and support for rapid prototyping, including talent, technology, and partnerships with external experts makes total sense, as the benefits are clear. It could be the best introduction to Product Experimentation and a cultural shift toward Innovation. And the risks associated with innovation must not deter healthcare companies from exploring new ideas and technologies, as the potential benefits for patients and the healthcare system are significant.