Pooja Pathak is Product Manager at LumiraDx.
Square co-founder Jim McKelvey coined the term “innovation stack” to describe the series of technical, product design, manufacturing, and supply chain breakthroughs a company achieves to deliver a solution. market transformation that both disrupts the status quo and creates a huge barrier to entry for competitors trying to copy them.
Often, the disruption allows the consumption of goods or services, which were previously only available to a chosen few, to anyone who needs or wants them. IKEA, Square and Southwest Airlines are often credited with creating stacks of innovation in their fields.
But how can your organization take advantage of the innovation stack? It’s something our company has done, and there are lessons you can learn from our experiences.
In our case, diagnostic tests were ripe for innovation stacking. Why? Because diagnostics are essential for healthcare decision-making, but they are often too expensive and cumbersome to deliver in a way that benefits patients around the world.
Today, delivering reliable diagnostics requires multiple technologies, large and expensive equipment, and highly trained personnel through a centralized laboratory testing model. However, these reliable results come at the cost of inconvenience and delay. There are some exceptions, rapid Covid-19 tests being one of them, but while the pandemic has accelerated an opening for rapid and affordable tests, it has done so by compromising the reliability of results.
Our company’s sole mission is to provide a wide range of laboratory-comparable results on a single point-of-care diagnostic platform. To achieve this, we had to innovate on a number of dimensions, including quality, performance, menu, cost and distribution.
The Innovation Stack provides a useful framework to understand how we have evolved to develop a series of innovations in our mission to make fast and accurate testing accessible and affordable for everyone in the world.
Prioritize provability and reliability
To start, we had to build a diagnostic system that produced reliable results and met the high standards of a centralized laboratory. So we built our platform technology based on the principles of lab analyzers and calibrated our method to meet the lab standard.
We were aware of a common limitation of diagnostic systems to be designed as “one trick ponies”. Our goal was to provide a platform with broad menu functionality. This led us to build a modular instrument architecture, allowing for functional flexibility, for example, to vary temperature, rate of fluid movement, mixing, and capture as needed to support specific test technology. . We combined this with a common strip design so that each test could be built on the same manufacturing line and run on the same instrument but with specific test reagents.
By focusing on proven research and a reliable, consistent customer experience, you can also begin the process of creating a product or service that resonates with your users.
Focus on partnerships and expertise
To gain a comprehensive understanding of current and future diagnostic needs in various geographic and healthcare segments, we have developed strategic partnerships with our customers. We believe the future of healthcare lies in community care and we asked pharmacies, hospitals, GP practices and global healthcare partners what matters to them. Partnerships like these are invaluable for implementing large and comprehensive programs in any industry.
To rapidly develop the necessary tests, we have developed internal and external R&D centers of excellence. Dedicated groups with expertise in the area you work in will enhance your ability to innovate and develop your product across different technology areas simultaneously.
Simplify and automate cost and delivery
Our product had to be affordable for customers around the world. To achieve this, we needed a low cost for the product, as well as for the distribution. We’ve reduced product costs by radically changing and simplifying the design of the consumable. To do it yourself, ask yourself which manufacturing strategy will allow you to manufacture 20, 50 or 100 products on the same production line using less than a tenth of materials from competing products.
We also focused on distribution costs. We have established direct global sales organizations in our key markets, eliminating the multiple middlemen that often exist in the distribution of diagnostics outside of the United States. The direct presence on the ground has also helped us respond to customer needs and issues.
Build an effortless customer experience
Having a global portfolio and market access plan, we needed to ensure that our product designs would help deliver high performance in the hands of customers. We have learned that point-of-care products should leave very little room for user misunderstanding and misuse. We’ve built our platform to go straight from sample to results with minimal steps and built-in quality checks.
User experience in point-of-care diagnostic systems is often an afterthought. We invested early and significantly in developing a consumer-friendly interface and workflow. This has helped us deploy thousands of systems per month with minimal upfront training and maintenance. It also helped the platform to be used more widely and in new contexts.
To do this in your industry, think about your user experience and potential points of failure that can be addressed through better design and workflow.
How do we support 20,000 instruments in 100 countries? To do this, we have developed a suite of connectivity solutions that can be implemented in a variety of IT, security and telecommunications environments. Connectivity allows the customer to manage the quality and results of their diagnostic testing programs. It allows us to monitor and maintain these instruments remotely, as well as provide preventative solutions that minimize downtime and instrument problems.
We didn’t understand all these things on the first day. We didn’t even know we needed all of them. But putting the needs of healthcare customers first as a strategic imperative and not shy away from big, bold change have all been key to creating a stack of diagnostics innovation.
With these key tactics outlined above, your business can also create a successful innovation stack and support the future of your industry.
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