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5 Keys to Winning a Medical Design Excellence Award

5 Keys to Winning a Medical Design Excellence Award
Craig Scherer, an MDEA juror and cofounder of the 7-time MDEA-winning design firm Insight Product Development, shares tips for increasing the odds of going home with the gold.

As a design innovation firm owner, I can say without hesitation that the Medical Design Excellence Award is the single-most prestigious and sought-after industry accolade that a design firm or medical device company can earn. To increase your chances of standing out and probability of success, here are five simple tips to keep in mind when preparing your submission.

The judging process can be pretty overwhelming. Judges review scores of entries, each containing responses to five essay questions along with additional details and supporting data files. Do the math—it’s not an easy feat. It seems like there’s never enough time to review each entry as thoroughly as we would like. So be thorough, but be brief. In particular, be succinct answering the main point of each question. Consider using bullet points, when appropriate, for multiple-item lists. It won’t increase your chances of standing out to have every little tiny feature called out. There are no extra points for hitting the maximum word count. People agree that it’s more difficult to write a short paper than a long one. The best way to be compelling is to focus succinctly on the core value proposition of your groundbreaking device.

A simple, straightforward, well-written submission will be easier to read and will naturally be more engaging to the judges. The medical device industry has its own language with what seems like millions of acronyms. If you consider the dozens of medical specialties, there are just as many different dialects within the overall medical language. Write in a tone that does not rely on knowledge of specialty vernacular, but instead clearly defines the value and uniqueness of the device. Don’t forget that the judges are all medical industry clinicians, educators, executives, and innovators. They are smart, well-traveled people; you’re not going to impress them with jargon, so don’t make them look up acronyms or decipher your specialty code to discover the hidden value. Have the best writer in the office proofread the answers for flow and tone. And beware of sloppy copy, folks. Typos and careless errors are not the way to win over a judge. Clarity also extends to the visual presentation. If you cannot supply actual product, make sure that your images and videos are high quality and compelling. Everyone loves great imagery.

Clinical efficacy has to be a given. Judges need to be able to look at the device and say: “It’s clear this device works; I can see how that would help improve patient outcomes” in order to award a device top prize. We take our industry pretty seriously, and products that are gimmicky and not clinically proven simply can’t compete against products that are clinically significant. Also, like it or not, judges are just people. And people are subject to the influences of the media. There may be products out there that have been the subject of recent bad press due to recalls—infusion pumps come to mind—or new product categories that don’t seem quite ready for primetime, like renal denervation systems, for example. It might be more prudent to wait a year before entering these types of devices into the competition.

The MDEA, at its core, is an innovation award. After all, it has “design excellence” right in its name. Your submission should highlight innovation at multiple levels. Spend time generating a value statement for each one of the questions. Ask yourself: Why is this better than what has come before? Utilizing new technology to provide therapeutic benefit is obviously a real crowd pleaser. But also think about other areas where you innovated—perhaps utilizing new materials or manufacturing processes, for instance, or demonstrating how you made the system easier to use by streamlining a workflow or improving the user experience. 

At the end of the day, it really comes down to providing better patient outcomes. Most of us participate in this industry to feel like our jobs make a difference in people’s lives. If you can demonstrate this in your submission, you will definitely appeal to the judges at an emotional level.

It’s wonderful to see design excellence in medical devices really making a difference for patients and clinicians. Keep these tips in mind as you think about representing the wonderful and innovative products that you’ve developed in order to increase your chance of taking home a trophy.

Craig Scherer is cofounder of Insight Product Development in Chicago. Insight is a design innovation consultancy that specializes in medical devices, consumer healthcare, and drug-delivery systems. Insight has been awarded seven MDEAs, including for devices manufactured by such industry leaders as Hill-Rom, Baxter Healthcare, and St. Jude Medical. This year’s competition will mark Scherer’s second time serving as an MDEA judge.

Go for the gold and enter your innovative medical device into the 2016 Medical Design Excellence Awards. Deadline for entry is January 24, 2016.
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