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Rapid Prototyping, Start-Up Style

Boston 11.07.12, 07:18PM by Gianna Ericson and Daniel Sobol

This post was written by Gianna Ericson and Daniel Sobol

“Here’s the deal. You will wear an adult brief (which is what you think it is). No, you will not have to actually use it. They are testing whether the system works when the brief is on an actual person rather than sitting in a box or on a shelf. Your reward: the knowledge that you are helping an awesome start-up make their idea better, and that by doing so, you may be improving your own future quality of care.”

Thus read part of the all-company email we sent out last week, looking for volunteers to help Gweepi Medical – a team from start-up accelerator Healthbox – test an early prototype of their Smart Brief system in our Patient Lab. Within minutes of hitting “send,” we had a group of willing volunteers ready to don a prototype. After some advice on fastening methods from the parents in the group, we were suited up and running wheelchair races, climbing in and out of hospital beds, acting out adverse events, and traipsing around the studio. In other words, we were trying to break the system.

We looked ridiculous. But if you look beyond the apparent chaos, what you find is the value of rapid prototyping. Acting out scenarios and pushing the technology to its limits while the product is still in its earliest stages is an easy and low-cost way to get essential feedback on feasibility and user experience. Gweepi was able to gather data and assess functionality within the realities of on-the-ground care delivery ahead of investing significant capital in product development, which means more resources will be available for later refinement. Here’s Gweepi, explaining what they’re up to:

November 8th, 2012 is Healthbox Innovation Day, where each company will present their progress to potential investors and partners. We have been so impressed with each company’s willingness to learn from their stakeholders and refine their systems based on a rich understanding of the problems people are facing in healthcare. Congratulations and good luck to all of the Healthbox Boston 2012 entrepreneurs!

Start-up accelerator Healthbox launched its first Boston program, with ten early-stage companies addressing key challenges in healthcare, this fall. Continuum is partnering with them as a strategy, stakeholder learning, and service design mentor.

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