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Medical product development stages: pitfalls to avoid

by Kaleidico
by Kaleidico

What pitfalls can occur at the stages of digital medical product development, and how can they affect your project's performance?

In just two years, the Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the conditions of the digital health market, shifting user preferences to what is convenient, fast, and, of course, safe. 

The growing demand for digital products has encouraged startups to launch new projects and existing companies to start the process of scalability. As a result, businesses have plunged into a sea of competition, where the winner will be a high-quality product developed in a short amount of time.

global market insights

But in all this seemingly optimistic story, there is one important nuance — the healthcare industry requires a different approach, one that does not tolerate haste and ignorance of important clinical data.

Health is priceless, but the healthcare sector has an exorbitant cost. With any misstep, human life is at stake. Therefore, a medical digital product should benefit people in a way that is ethical, safe, reliable, fair, and sustainable. All of this can be achieved with  a thought-out and well-managed product development process: from the idea validation stage to product post-launch maintenance.

The labor-intensive process of reaching patients' hearts: the stages of digital product development

Contemporary tech-driven medicine is an integral part of any healthcare organization seeking to gain prominence among its competitors. To get to that position and, more importantly, hold it for as long as possible, it is advisable to start with the core point — finding out what users want and then delivering it in an easy-to-use format. Thus, the entire process of med solution development can be divided into 6 main stages:

1. Strategy building

The development of a clear strategy determines the success of the follow-up product development phases. However, it does not mean that if you pass it successfully, the next stages will pass smoothly. In fact, it rarely happens... Nonetheless, by paying proper attention to research as the main component of this stage, you can significantly reduce the risks of further project failure. 

Here are a couple of basic points to focus on at this stage:

  • What is the problem?
  • What is the target audience?
  • How does a would-be solution help?
  • Who are my competitors?
  • What tech stack to use?
  • What are the success metrics?
  • What are the risk metrics?

In general, the problem-solution issue is addressed at this phase. In other words, you search for the pain points of potential users and suggest effective solutions.

problem and solution

2. Prototyping

After defining the strategy and what the solution will be, it is time to put the idea of the future solution into practice, subsequently testing it for its feasibility.

In other words, a digital product team, with the main role given to a designer, makes a detailed prototype of what was figured out in the first phase. Once the prototype is ready, it needs to be put to meticulous testing. During this pre-development phase, it is advisable to involve your main audience (patients, doctors, or both) to evaluate the prototype from the "user" side. It is also desirable to perform a technical usability analysis.

We have prepared a comprehensive e-book on the general principles of digital product design for the medical sector, covering in detail every stage of the medical solution design process, from user understanding to prototype testing.

Product Design

3. Design

Once the idea and the  prototype have been validated, it's time for UI and UX design. The former is responsible for the visual component of the digital solution, while the latter is responsible for the logic. 

The synergy of a well-designed prototype, well-thought-out logic, and the right visual component will result in an interactive, user-friendly, intuitive, and pleasant-looking product.

4. Development

Now it's time for the most tech-dependent aspect, as the choice of technical kit will determine the "character" of the solution. Your business can be faced with a choice of core tech tools based on what the solution should be, what its goals are, and what its scale is. 

For example, some programming languages such as Angular, Vue, and React are used for the front end, Node.js, Ruby on Rails for the backend, React Native or Flutter for mobile or cross-platform solution development. At the same time, Vue.js or Gatsby.js can be the right option in the framework section.

Thus, this stage involves defining the technical architecture, choosing the tech stack, and specifying the development milestones.

5. Testing

Testing allows you to identify all the shortcomings and fix them right in time before the product gets into the hands of end-users. This stage includes the following main types of testing, the implementation of which will contribute to improving the final product:

  • Performance testing (load and stress one)
  • Security testing
  • Usability testing
  • Functional testing.

6. Maintenance

The last but not least, the product release to the market for end-users. This essential stage  is followed by a continuous process of supporting and enriching your solution with additional perks as well as introducing marketing strategies to reach more users.

Stages of development

Each of these stages brings its difficulties. Unexpected problems arise during the solution implementation — it is perfectly normal. However, in many cases, overlooking issues and ignoring seemingly insignificant matters leads to the project's collapse, forcing the business to suffer losses and the team to start another iteration. Ultimately, misidentifying the audience, underestimating the market, or hasty decisions regarding technology can derail everything. 

According to Financesonline [3], the main reason current startups fail is a lack of product-market fit, then marketing problems and financial problems round out the top three reasons.

Lack of market assessment or its jam-packed state is also the main reason why medical startups flop, followed by the ignorance of needs and misidentification of the audience [4]. How to mitigate the risk of project failure by taking into account the pitfalls that may occur in each phase of healthcare-oriented solution engineering?

Mistakes to avoid during medical product development

Forgetting the audience's profile

audience profile

Technology has brought companies closer to their customers than ever before. But many of these companies are still far removed from the people they serve. It's not enough to identify the audience. It is essential to determine age, desires, pains, and other data to create a detailed portrait to identify further solutions according to users’ peculiar needs.

Underestimation of the regulatory requirements 

Initially, unforeseen regulatory roadblocks within the digital healthcare market are more than likely to cause your project to fail in the long run. The strictness of regulation is dependent on the product's type. For example, if it is a wellness or health app, the level of regulation is lower than for software as a medical device (e.g., SaMD to calculate medication dosages) or software in a medical device (e.g., SiMD to measure blood pressure).

Nevertheless, a medical solution needs to comply with the following regulations:

  • HIPAA
  • GDPR
  • MDR
  • FDA.

Product development without prototyping

Companies often skip the prototyping stage as it demands substantial amounts of time and money. However, flawed design, poor user knowledge, and wasted time on excess features can surpass the cost of the prototyping phase in the long term.

Chueyee Moua, an R&D engineer at Catheter & Medical Design Inc., said [5], “Prototyping is the most important step…during the design phase to identify any needed changes and make quick decisions.”

The use of "out of time" technology

Every bleeding edge technology soon becomes commonplace. There is a widespread belief among businesses that the newer the technology, the better it is. Although this is partly true, there is always a risk of incompatibility between new technology and those already existing in your business. 

An ideal state for tech is the so-called "Goldilocks" period. In other words, it is desirable to give preference to a tech stack that has already passed the stage of "innovation" and is deprived of possible bugs but continues to be relevant for integration with other systems. 

Ignoring technical debt 

In simple terms, technical debt refers to redundant or useless code or features in the solution's tech part. The system of its accumulation is comparable to interest accrual. But the point is clear: the sooner you address the debt, the less interest will accrue. Technical debt can cause the slowdown of the application, more frequent malfunctions, and more time for troubleshooting.

Disregard for pre-launch marketing campaigns

Usually, the complexity of developing med-focused solutions forces companies to postpone or ignore the creation of marketing strategies. Given the fierce market competition, well-designed pre-and post-launch initiatives can be a real godsend for your project. It is crucial not only to develop but also to demonstrate and prove to users that your solution is reliable, handy, and valuable.

The team is the core

What else determines the success of a project? Probably nothing is as important as a close-knit, diverse team of experts with the common goal: getting to the top as quickly and efficiently as possible. Reaching the top of the digital healthcare market requires more — experts with med-and-tech knowledge. Our team of technically and medically-savvy professionals is on hand to guide your product through all stages of development. Let's transform healthcare together, shall we?

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