Accelerating New Product Development in MedTech with Virtual Reality

Accelerating New Product Development in MedTech with Virtual Reality 

From Oculus Rift to Pokémon Go, Virtual Reality (VR) technologies that were once considered futuristic are quickly becoming mainstream, causing a revolution in the business world. And although VR is still believed to be extremely transformative in the gaming sector, there are several other industries where VR has made tremendous inroads and has changed the way they function. In the healthcare segment, VR is set to disrupt not just medical devices, but also the way they’re developed.  

New product development with VR

VR in MedTech is enriched with endless possibilities and is bringing about a positive effect on the lives of both patients and medical practitioners. While VR can help speed up the pace of development and improve quality and usability of medical devices, the biggest benefit that VR brings to the table is enabling designers and engineers to gain an empathetic understanding of what patients and doctors might experience when trying to use a medical device. VR helps them understand the benefits and challenges of using medical devices and enables them to optimize the design so as to drive better experiences.  

Having said that, let’s look at 6 ways in which MedTech device manufacturers can accelerate new product development with VR:  

  1. Design process exploration: Although medical device manufacturers have been designing products using CAD, after looking at a design on a computer for so long, they lose the sense of scale and how the device would actually look like or function in relation to the human body. In contrast, VR offers an entirely new medium to explore the design process; developers can take product designs in a virtual format and view them in the real world. From a MedTech perspective, this is extremely useful because developers can view product designs in relation to important things like anatomy.
      
  2. Communicating complex ideas: While developing a product using computer programs, developers have a tough time interpreting the various aspects of the product in 1-D. However, with VR, there is no interpretation required as all aspects of the product come alive in 3-D and appear just as they would in a physical setting. VR helps in the visualization of what something will actually look like in its material form, allowing developers to easily communicate complex ideas and ensure no aspect of the design process is overlooked. 
     
  3. Rapid prototyping: Prototyping is one of the most valuable tools that enables developers to test and analyze the functionality of a medical device. However, traditional methods of prototyping are not only complex and time-consuming but also bring about a certain degree of risk. VR allows for iterations and variants to be created almost immediately, and allows developers to include complex functionality. Developers can validate or invalidate design decisions faster, while substantially reducing development risk – which is critical in the medical field.
      
  4. Immersive development: The power of VR lies in its ability to immerse developers in the product development process fully. By aiding in building products that look and feel as real as possible, VR creates a sense of presence and transports developers into the world they create. Such high levels of interactivity and immersion can streamline product and interaction design and make the whole process a lot more affordable. Since the development of medical products is often complicated and complex, the immersive capability of VR can truly influence the features and enable the development of products with fruitful end-user experiences. 
     
  5. Virtual testing: VR enables product engineers to test prototypes and products virtually – much before final verification with physical products is performed. By virtually testing the products before they take final shape, VR leads to improved usability and better ergonomic design. With a VR test, the prototype can be introduced to more respondents easily, and their interactions and reactions can be tracked in real-time. This can not only save development cost but also increase the quality of the design and user experience.
     
  6. Real-time feedback: In addition, VR can also be used to bring physical models in front of patients and healthcare professionals to get immediate feedback. This allows for informed design iteration throughout the development process and makes the development process more realistic. End users can interact with virtual prototypes very early on, and enter the feedback loop earlier and in a more integrated fashion. Not just that, developers can continue to interact with concepts from the end-user perspective, and allow for faster identification of features that must be optimized for use. 
     

Drive better end-user experiences 

With the global market for VR in healthcare expected to reach $3.8 billion by 2020, the stage has been set for massive adoption. In MedTech product development, VR is truly a game-changer. It can accelerate experimentation of concepts and closer interactions between development and design teams, and end-users. The ability to quickly experience features in a realistic environment and improve features as a result of virtual testing can ensure every product that is built, is built in relation to the human anatomy. Not just that, VR makes it easier to create and play around with variants to test and evaluate assumptions, and improve how products are developed. Given the level of readiness demonstrated by VR, it’s time to embrace VR in MedTech product development to explore the design process in a realistic environment, communicate complex ideas, prototype rapidly, accelerate new product development and drive better end-user experiences.  

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