by Sidra on December 10, 2012

As an entrepreneur creating a product that has a hardware component coupled with a software component, do I need to know how to solder a circuit board together? Not necessarily. But I do need to have a good idea of how everything works together, especially how changes in engineering design are affecting our budget and timeline. One of the biggest things that I need to keep in mind during product development is that every single decision we make has an impact on the end user. This is extra important when you are in the healthcare field, where your end user may have extremely specific needs, in addition to the regulatory landscape.  That being said, I think it is of paramount importance to involve your end users as early as possible and develop your product specifically with them in mind. Since we are simultaneously developing products for two different audiences, this can get quite complex very quickly!

We need to look at implementing design choices for the SENSIMAT for Wheelchairs that we would never have thought to implement for SENSIMAT for Beds, and vice-versa. Below is a small collection of considerations that we have gone through for both of our devices that will give you an idea of how real-world situations can affect engineering design.

SENSIMAT for Wheelchair Considerations:

– Battery life and ease of charge: If the user needs to charge the device every day, it quickly becomes tedious. How long does this need to be?

– Cushion market is fragmented: How do we spec our device to fit multiple sizes and shapes of wheelchair cushion?

– Platform choice: Do we develop for Android/iOS, or do we provide our own controller?

– Bluetooth choice: 2.0 vs LE, and what are the implications of choosing each one?

– Hardware profile: How do we optimize the size and shape of the device so that it can be zipped into a cushion and go unseen? Can we make it small enough to ensure that it doesn’t affect the seating profile of the patient?

– Cost-effectiveness: Patients will need to bear the cost of the device. Can we give up some extraneous features to make it more bearable for patients? How will reimbursement change our decision?

SENSIMAT Bed Considerations:

– Privacy: We are now dealing with hundreds of patients in a single institution instead of just one, what implications does this have on security and privacy information, and how do we account for that?

– Not a consumer device: Now that we are in a healthcare institution, this changes the way that the product will be used in several ways. How do we understand how caregivers/administrators prefer to use this?

– Early contact: It is much easier to solicit feedback from a single wheelchair end user and much more difficult to solicit feedback from a healthcare institution. How do we develop our hardware with this in mind?

– System considerations: Any use of the device has workflow implications. How do we connect with the IT systems already in place?

– Cross-institution differences: How do we design the hardware to be able to connect not only across several different hospitals, but also in long-term care? Complex continuing care? Rehab?

– Physical considerations: How is the device swapped in and out? What about the ability to clean the device?