1.1 Strategic Focus

Chapter 1.1
Additional Resources

One of the first, most important steps in the biodesign innovation process is for innovators to discover and explicitly commit themselves to a strategic focus area (i.e., a medical practice area, specialty, or specific need). Chapter 1.1 presents detailed information and important considerations for choosing a strategic focus. The steps below have been excerpted from the chapter and are presented with active web links to assist innovators in getting started.

Take Inventory
  1. What to Cover
    Before thinking about a specific practice area to pursue, take an inventory of individual and/or group mission, strengths/weaknesses, and acceptance criteria for an innovation project. Remember that there is an explicit choice to be made about which focus area to pursue, and every innovator or company must understand what is driving them to ensure a good “fit” between the strategic focus that is ultimately chosen and the person (or people) undertaking the innovation process.
  2. Where to Look
    • Personal Reflection – As an individual researcher/academic, innovator, or leader of a team, spend time alone reflecting on the questions and issues outlined in the Fundamentals section. Complete an honest assessment of one’s personal motivators, capabilities, and the characteristics that any project must possess to be fulfilling.
    • Facilitated Session(s) – If working in a group, consider holding one or more facilitated session to build consensus regarding the team’s mission, strengths/weaknesses, and acceptance criteria.
    • Advice from Respected Advisors – Sometimes others can help an innovator identify his/her strengths and weaknesses. Through the process of getting to know the innovator, advisors can offer important insights that can help one develop a vision.

Articulate a Strategic Focus
  1. What to Cover
    Begin by performing research to identify a series of different strategic focus areas that might perform well against the defined acceptance criteria. Evaluate opportunities carefully and objectively against each criterion. Remain cognizant of the potential for conflicts of interest and use the highest ethical standards in choosing a strategic focus. Continue narrowing down the list of strategic focus areas until the best fit can be identified. Be as specific as possible (e.g., the desire to explore improvements in early-stage breast cancer treatment) without jumping ahead to medical needs or solutions (which are addressed in the next two chapters).
  2. Where to Look
    • PubMed – A database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine that includes more than 16 million citations from MEDLINE and other life science journals dating back to the 1950s.
    • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality – AHRQ sponsors and conducts research that provides evidence-based information on health care outcomes; quality; cost, use, and access. From its website, one can gain access to longitudinal data regarding patient interactions with the healthcare system, including all transactions and their codes (indicating procedures and diagnosis), as well as location of service, which can be used to help develop market segments. Important databases accessible via the site include:
      • HCUPnet – A free, online query system based on data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP). It provides access to health statistics and information on hospital stays (inpatient encounters) at the national, regional, and state levels.
      • MEPS Data – The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality provides longitudinal data on the health expenditures of 30,000 U.S. households via the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey (MEPS). This data is publicly available for primary analysis. It is useful for more detailed analyses of market segments (and sizing), but working with the data can be labor intensive. This source is probably most helpful if the innovator or company needs to support a need specification with actual publications as part of a marketing strategy. Data is available for conditions with a 1 percent prevalence rate or greater.
    • U.S. Census Bureau – Provides online access to the latest U.S. census data.
    • World Health Organization – WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. Information on global health trends, research, policies, and standards can be found through this group.
    • Professional Societies – These associations can provide a wealth of information to help innovators understand issues and opportunities within a potential focus area. A table in the book includes a sample of the professional societies that exist within fields associated with the 15 most costly medical conditions.
    • Industry Specific News Resources – Online and offline publications in the medtech field, such as Medtech Insight, InVivo Magazine, and Start-Up Magazine, are also useful sources of relevant information.

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