As a clinician myself, I think co-creation is – in principle – an excellent idea. It allows the industry to address challenges that neither tech suppliers nor healthcare providers could tackle on their own.
I have first-hand experience of this. Our group was looking at ways to assess more quickly how a patient was responding to cancer treatment. This everyday clinical task remains one of the key issues of patient care in all oncology centers. Previous attempts to address it had proven insufficient. But by teaming up with Philips, and bringing our differing areas of expertise together, we were able to find a new solution: the qEASL* (quantitative European Association for the Study of the Liver) multi-modality tumor tracking concept.
A Win-Win Situation
I’m sure all of us in healthcare have seen plenty of hardware and software products that were clearly developed by brilliant engineers and programmers in technology companies with no exposure to the realities of healthcare and the actual challenges we face with our patients every day. These tools work perfectly in ideal models, but quickly become a hindrance rather than a help if faced with clinical reality, so they rapidly stop being used and fade from the market.
By getting clinicians and other healthcare professionals involved from the start, co-creation should mean that new healthcare tools are designed with the users’ needs foremost. Tools should be more focused on areas where they can make the most difference or where the need is most urgent. And they should be easier for us to use within our current work flows.
As clinicians we all value our time and cannot afford wasting it with imperfect solutions. After all, technology is supposed to be user-friendly and should make our lives easier. That’s why our team believes that an academic-industry partnership is the best way to develop clinical solutions for a faster, better and thus more cost-effective patient care.
Co-creation will benefit health tech companies as well. They can focus their resources and investments on products they know will appeal to their target markets and so have a greater chance of being successful.
At least, this is how co-creation should work. Clinicians should always be careful when getting involved with commercial companies. There can be pressure on them to move too quickly towards a saleable product before the concept is sufficiently validated. I’ve also heard stories from colleagues where the health tech companies they worked with really didn’t seem interested in listening to their concerns, thoughts or ideas. This made the “co-creation” experience less than pleasant, and the resulting tools were not as useful as they could have been.
Fortunately, my own experience of co-creation was much happier. Philips has a program where it embeds its own researchers at some of its key partners. At the time, I was working at Johns Hopkins within the research group of Professor Jeff Geschwind, M.D., Chairman, Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at Yale School of Medicine, and the Philips person embedded with us was Ming De Lin, Senior Clinical Site Researcher at Philips.