Simply put, the reason most people enter the medtech space is to make a big difference in the lives of patients.
However, the process is not always straightforward,
That’s according to Meghan Scanlon, senior vice president of urology and pelvic health at Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX). 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.
“Right from the start, have a strong hypothesis about what your value proposition will be,” Scanlon said. “But don’t go carve it on tablets of stone. Use a pencil or erasable marker and constantly test and validate it. Have an idea of what your evidence generation plan will be over time and don’t let the pursuit of perfection be the enemy of progress.
Scanlon was joined by Jenny Lee, VP of Digital Marketing and Patient Advocates, Boston Scientific, as the two discussed approaches to product development and innovation, with a focus on urology and pelvic health.
One of the main aspects of this endeavor is the treatment of kidney stones, with the long-term treatment being a long, thin telescope inserted into the ureter to first find the stones, then break them up and extract them. Scanlon said that for every new urologist entering the field, 10 retire, leading to what she called a “massive capacity issue.”
In an effort to mitigate the impact of this, Boston Scientific set out to review research in 57 different procedures on three different continents, with an analysis of thousands of hours of video, as well as a more in-depth analysis of the sources of data available. In this example, Scanlon pointed to using data and simply listening to other voices talking about a problem as the engine for finding solutions to the problem of kidney stone capacity.
This effort led to Boston Scientific’s StoneSmart platform, designed to transform kidney stone care and minimize the economic burden on healthcare systems, and it lends itself to the overall idea of using data and sources additional innovation.
“For me, it’s what you hear, what do you see and what do you feel, and then how do you surround that with data?” Scanlon said. “It’s the secret sauce that I think allows you to really unleash new abilities.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, strategies changed and research techniques had to be adapted, leading to what Scanlon called “one of our beautiful COVID babies”: an immersion lab digital that brings together physicians from around the world to provide new insights.
The ever-changing environment also extends beyond Boston Scientific and the physicians using its technologies. Scanlon said much of product innovation has centered around supporting and educating customers, but now some of that has changed due to increased patient scrutiny.
Lee referenced a recent discussion with a doctor who said patients just do what doctors tell them to do, but today’s patient population is so educated they actually have authority in certain situations. This has been factored into how Boston Scientific views development.
“There’s definitely this changing environment at Boston Scientific,” Lee said. “We’ve really focused on not just giving patients the right information because they deserve it, but honestly expect it these days.”
The approaches taken by Boston Scientific have led to a four-letter acronym that sums up the company’s path to innovation: LICE.
The “L” stands for listening, meaning hearing what patients have to say. “I” stands for iteration – Lee said it means being nimble and, as Scanlon said, using a pencil or erasable marker to make changes when needed.
“C” stands for collaboration, both with patients and with physicians and even with cross-functional partners within the company. Finally, “E” stands for evolve.
“You have to be able to change,” Lee said. “We have a lot of examples where we’ve done that. … Let’s do new things in a new way. Don’t be afraid to pivot and don’t be afraid to be bold. It’s kind of our approach.