The ideation step is considered one of the best opportunities for driving innovation in a hospital or ambulatory (same day) surgery center (ASC).
This is the phase where you pitch all of your great ideas for solutions to your customers’ problems. But if you haven’t completed your initial brand research and don’t know enough about your customers, other than the “hole in the drape”, you cannot begin the ideation phase. If you complete this phase successfully, you glide seamlessly to the next stages of product and program development. If you don’t know enough about what others have done with success, a consultant can help draw innovative ideas out of you. The consultant cannot, on such a short sprint, know the ins and outs of your organization, especially if they don’t know the healthcare environment, operations of your organization, or healthcare and medical travel operations and business development. So this is not a stage where a generalist will bring you much value. They must “know” the business of surgery, medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, surgical cases and instrumentation, technology, continuity of care, medical travel and altitude physiology, relevant laws and regulations, contract drafting, and the business of medical tourism. Very few people on the planet have this experience. They all know one another and are all extremely busy. On the other hand they also know which are the dilettantes and whom to avoid and can specify why.
If you follow the wrong advice at this stage, you’ll pay a fee and not get value from your deliverable and you could risk miscalculations, oversights, increase your financial or business risk and patient injury and impacts to quality, safety and accredited status. You don’t need to purchase or use any ideation software or apps. You might consider creating a task force or integrated product team to define your product. This phase is also when you research what others explain as their core value proposition and find places to truly differentiate from them for your competitive and comparative advantages. Cover each of these 5 steps to build a solid foundation for your product and your program. Simultaneously, study which 10-15 surgical procedures will lead your case rate and episode of care definition. Ensure that the individual involved in price quotes and the individual who will prepare contracts with employers, insurers, consumers, and TPAs and insurers are involved in this process from end-to-end.
- Determining your innovation goal. Here, you’ll analyze and determine what problem you need to solve for your customers before you make your unique and differentiated innovation. If you make your program and product without considering what problems you will solve for your customers, you’ll likely fail and fail big.
- Make assumptions or conduct research to ascertain what your customers think about your innovation. People will buy a product or service that solves a problem for them, but the problem itself must be present. Products that customers don’t need, didn’t ask for, or negatively impact your brand loyalty or image will be unsuccessful. This takes us back to the “if we build it, they will come” false assumption that many medical travel suppliers often make without testing and research to determine if the prospective customer sees things the way you see them. We also see this in concierge medicine startups that don’t conduct this second step in the process.
- Collect data on other market segments for possible connections that work in tandem. When thinking about your new bundled-price surgery program and product, it’s important to collect data on how patients accomplished this without your product developed and deliverable. You must have data on how much they can or will pay, and whether your price for your product and program are reasonable. During your market research phase, you should also review the market size and conduct a segmentation analysis. You must also know what your direct competitors might offer or have overlooked.
- Prototyping your ideas. This gets tricky. You should build a prototype and test your proposed product. This is intended to verify your product design. Here you must be conservative but at the same time test your thesis, assumptions, and identify your mistakes. The same consultant with the same competencies can help you “red team” your prototype instead of putting patients through it. They will be able to identify gaps if you’ve documented your processes, workflows, assumptions and solutions well. You may wish to study up on FMEA (Failure Mode and Effects Analysis) in different use-case scenarios and identify your program’s points of failure in marketing, booking, scheduling, service delivery, billing and payment and revenue management issues, and contracting with employers, insurers, TPAs and brokers who will promote your product to their clients.
- Testing your ideas with your existing customer base. You should conduct a customer value assessment to obtain the opinion of a sample of your target market. This assessment helps to adequately predict the response to the release of your product. Experts say that early customer involvement cuts down on uncertainty and helps make product objectives clear product. This is called listening to the voice of the customer (VoC). Hospitals and ASCs rarely do this step. Use members of your board or create an ad hoc research group if necessary. Explain the program and feed them lunch in exchange for listening and opining.
- Fit your facility’s and surgeons’ skill sets.
- Fit the interest of your facility’and surgeons.
- Solve a problem for patients.
- Be something that patients will buy and can afford
- Be scaleable.
- Who is my customer?
- Who else would be interested in this product?
- What does our knowledge about past customers inform us about how they will use the proposed product?
- What is our initial plan of how to position this product in the market?
- What technology will this product need to support it?
- What is this product’s advantage over the competition?
- What are the specific customer needs that this product can satisfy?
- What intentional benefits will this product deliver?
- How much do we expect our customers to pay for this product? Will they need financing or alternative means to pay if they don’t have cash on the spot?
- What features will this product include? What will it exclude?
- How do we expect to promote this product?
- How far will they travel to use this product?