“For feasibility, before you design, know your community! Listen to your community!” – Will ElLaissi
On Wednesday, April 12th, Smashing Boxes co-produced the 5th annual mHealth@Duke Conference: The Lifecycle of Digital Health Science. At the conference, health experts spoke about a variety of mobile health-related topics, such as the viability, the feasibility, and the usability of solutions. The day’s discussions also covered designing, evaluating, and growing your solutions.
Experts discussed product feasibility in the aptly named panel, “Is Your Solution Feasible?” Moderated by Will ElLaissi (MBA, Strategic Initiative Duke Institute for Health Innovation), the panelists included:
- Matt Crowley, MD, MHS, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Duke University
- Harriet Burns, MD, MPF, DIrector of Informatics, Piedmont Health Services, Inc
- Jane Brown, MBA, Principal Strategic Advisor, Blue Cross Blue Shield
- Trinity Zan, MA, Technical Advisor, FHI 360
Here are some of the questions posed to the panel, along with some of the insightful responses from the expert panelists.
Before we talk about the feasibility of digital health solutions, we first need to figure out what problem we are solving. How do you identify the issue?
“Look for things that are impactful and actionable” – Jane Brown
There were a variety of responses here. An easy indicator, according to Harriet, is when you receive a certain quantity of emails on a topic. Jane said that it is important to look for things that are impactful and actionable. You also need to determine if you are at the point where the current outcomes need innovation, noted Matt. Trinity added that you should look to communication from providers, qualitative interviews, and data analysis.
How do you know if something is technically feasible?
“Feasibility requires rigorous and time-consuming end-user information-gathering” – Matt Crowley
A common theme here is familiarizing yourself with and understanding the community you are trying to reach. It is essential to identify the problem you are trying to solve and think about how the solution fits into place, said Jane. Think about how it will fit into the current ecosystem. Matt said that it is important to understand the cost-benefit analysis. A question to consider is: “how do you get more information without it being a chore?”
How do you determine something is not feasible?
“Feasibility fails when a solution is focused on one problem without understanding the bigger picture” – Harriet Burns
Jane stressed the importance of understanding the holistic experience, not just a point solution. Harriet added to this and said that knowing and understanding the people you are trying to sell your product to is crucial, as well as being open to different solutions. She said that sometimes low-tech is all right. Jane chimed in: “We can’t forget about the 20% that doesn’t have smartphones.” Matthew believes that apps geared toward data collection can be a feasibility challenge because of understanding new interfaces and methods. Will added that finding someone willing to implement your idea is the first thing to consider, even before integration. Proving the validity of your product is vital.
How do you identify the next customer?
“Listen to your community.” – Will ElLaissi
Once again, paying close attention to your community is the big takeaway here. Trinity said that it helps to pull from the data that they have, and see what technology people have access to. Matthew added that he maintains a close dialogue with patients to know what works for them.
Will said it best when he offered his summary of the panel discussion:
If you are going to design a digital health technology, get to know your community. It’s important to think of the potential challenges and the patient’s point of view during ideation phase. You need to think about the cost-benefit analysis for everyone involved in the process. Another important question: how does this fit into the current work flow? Disruptive innovation is difficult in healthcare, especially if it doesn’t fit into the existing system.
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