Should you go connected?


Help a global pharmaceutical company decide whether to go connected with an established drug delivery device.


Our client’s stakeholders needed to agree a connected strategy. The teams were based in transatlantic locations. We held concurrently running workshops culminating in clear choices. We demonstrated technical feasibility with semi-functional prototypes using commercially available development kits to achieve significant cost and time savings.


Our clients quickly and confidently reached an informed decision to proceed to the next phase of development.

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The question of whether to launch a connected device is one that many pharma companies are currently grappling with. There are numerous potential benefits to this technology, but the cost of entry into the connected world is high. Connected solutions must solve a genuine need. Our client was looking to answer whether their established respiratory products should be connected. Making the correct decision was not straightforward.

Should you go connected?

Extracting five key themes from 500 pages of reports

Can there be too much information? Our client conducted an exhaustive evaluation of commercial and user needs, reports on market performance, human factors (HF) studies and post-market surveillance. We needed to find a way to communicate the key themes from the mass of information to stakeholders in order for them to make a clear decision on whether to invest in connectivity for their device.

We identified five key categories:

• Competence (ability to complete the task correctly)
• Adherence (compliance with specified medication regimen)
• Engagement (actively encouraging use)
• Differentiation (standing out from the competition)
• Clinical trial support (confidence in clinical results)

Visualising the solutions space

Creating a visual representation of user scenarios gave our clients something tangible to discuss. We mapped three classes of solution onto a needs matrix :

• Non-connected – no sensing or connectivity
• Smart – sensing functionality but no connectivity
• Connected – sensing and cloud/smartphone connectivity

Should you go connected?

This initial work helped the stakeholders see where traditional ‘non-connected solutions’ might satisfy requirements (such as a training aid or improved instructions by helping new users in adopting correct user technique) and where a fully sensing or connected solution may deliver additional benefit (such as helping users whose engagement dropped off and where intervention might help).

Four hours to make a group decision

Based on two continents, the steering group included functions from across the business including regulatory, marketing, clinical and research and development.

We had a half-day working window to get the group together, become informed, aligned and confident enough to make a clear decision. With two experienced facilitators on the ground in each location and some carefully prepared stimulus material, the group was able to reach a confident consensus.

Should you go connected?

Despite the challenges of communicating via video link, we were able to keep participants fully engaged.

Paul Greenhalgh, Director of Design, Team Consulting

Prototyping a connected solution in three weeks

After coming to a decision, we needed to explore how to integrate sensing into an existing approved device. Retro-fitting sensors into core components without affecting functionality or performance added another level of complexity. We needed to find practical solutions to gather accurate usage data and build a clear picture of user compliance.

We identified readily available development boards that we could use to speed-up the prototyping process. Our engineers, designers and HF experts developed concept demonstrators to put in the hands of the users. We were able to prototype semi-functional sensing mock-ups in just three weeks. This was essential to gain confidence not only on what might be technically achievable, but on what might resonate with users, meet their needs and encourage them to adopt this new ‘enhanced’ user experience.

A real solution to a real need

The project helped our client to consider both sides of the argument, ensuring they were not turning to a connected solution without exploring more simple options. The project helped bring together people from across the organisation to share their perspectives. It provided tangible examples for debate and tested technical feasibility through semi-functional prototypes. Most importantly, it helped to demonstrate how a connected solution could positively impact real user experience.

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