Case study: Team Momma
Medical Product Ideation (BIOENG
2150) is a foundational course in the Medical Product Engineering program
within the University of Pittsburgh Department of Bioengineering. ‘I hear and I
forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.’ – Confucius. This ideal
was kept in mind during the design of the course. To enforce the concept of
‘learning by doing’, while the various ideation tools are taught, students simultaneously
get a chance to apply these learned tools to a project they are working on with
a clinical mentor. A typical Medical Product Ideation classroom session
consists of workshops, lectures by industry professionals, and hands-on team
projects to help student teams master the skills learned in class.
Team Momma worked under the
mentorship of Dr. Michael Bonidie and Dr. Pamela Moalli, from the Women’s
Center for Bladder and Pelvic Health at Magee- Women’s Hospital of UPMC. A team
of bright students working as a team to solve a clinical problem has been
proven more effective than one individual working alone. Team Momma consisted
of four students: Molly Finn, Randy Lee, Stephanie Quatchak and Josh Singer.
The first stage of the ideation
process is “ethnography and needs finding”. The needs finding is done through a
series of steps, starting with a process of structured observation called “ethnography”.
In the case of Team Momma, the ethnography observations were done through (1) interviews
with the clinical mentors, Dr. Michael Bonidie and Dr. Pamela Moalli, (2) observing
procedures at the Women’s Center for Bladder and Pelvic Health and (3) observing
procedures at Womancare Birth Center at Magee Women’s Hospital. Based on the ethnography
observations, students used the process of “affinitization” to organize dozens
to hundreds of observations into well-focused themes. These themes formed the
basis of a “customer image diagram” which simplified the formulation of a
clinical problem statement and a concise statement of an unmet clinical need.
The problem statement described the drawbacks of how pelvic organ prolapse is
currently treated. The need statement, as quoted by Team Momma, was: ‘A
mechanism to improve patient acceptance of pessaries as a non-surgical
treatment option for pelvic organ prolapse.’ The formulation of the needs
statement was followed by a stakeholder analysis.
After weeks of brainstorming and
other ideation methods, including “Design Thinking” techniques pioneered by
IDEO, Inc, the Momma team mapped out a technical solution space using
“morphological analysis”. Team Momma used
these tools to narrow their search to two technical solutions which addressed
the unmet clinical need. Before determining a preferred solution, Team Momma
thoroughly studied the competitive environment and the patent landscape. This
was done primarily to understand how pelvic organ prolapse is currently addressed
in the medical device industry. Finally, to assess the commercial potential of
their innovation, the team developed a hazard/risk analysis, regulatory
strategy, reimbursement strategy, and a competitive market analysis. These
processes are standard in the medical products industry today.
The engineering solution proposed
by Team Momma was the “Absorbable Pessary Membrane”. The solution was explained
through a presentation and a white paper submission at the end of the semester.
As the team worked on their project throughout the semester, they frequently presented
their work to peers, instructors, and clinical mentors. The peer and faculty
evaluations gave them invaluable feedback on their work progress. Team Momma
hopes to continue working on their early stage innovation to advance its clinical
application in women’s health care.
Author: Yash Mokashi, CMI Fellow