January 31, 2019 | Matthew B. Boyd

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Characteristics of Successful Medical Device Product Launches


The creation of a new medical device involves many steps from initial concept to finished product. Every year billions of dollars are invested in research and development in this industry worldwide. The success (or failure) of the new technology will have a major impact on a company's bottom line.

With so much on the line, all parties involved with the new device (engineering, technical documentation, marketing and sales, distribution partners, and customer support) must work in collaboration. Successful product launches are typically measured by return on investment, adoption, market share, customer satisfaction, and/or awareness. Let's examine five characteristics of successful medical device product launches and some outcomes.


The Pre-launch Phase 

Innovation and entrepreneurship are widely celebrated in numerous fields, yielding generous profits for those who succeed. The medical device industry is no different from others seeking to turn a financial profit, and several universities across the U.S. have developed entrepreneurship training programs to guide the process. One of the oldest life science programs is Stanford Biodesign, which focuses on training young innovators of biomedical technologies.

The primary approach driving their process is an upfront focus on identifying and characterizing the clinical need, rather than beginning with promising technology. During their fellowship, the graduate student innovators follow the "3 I's" process as they evaluate and solve needs in particular clinical areas. The three phases are: Identify, Invent, and Implement.  


Determining the Product Launch Timeline

The launch timeline is established using several factors, including:

  • Existing product vs. new technology - can mean as little as a 3-6 month lead time, to 18 months or more.
  • Price point - the more expensive the product, the prospects may need time to plan the purchase into their budget or, in some cases, seek grant funding.
  • Application novelty - brand new technology benefits by running pilot testing to establish credibility with the prospects.


Create a Product Launch Plan

During this critical phase, make sure you include input from all disciplines involved in this project. Also be sure to allow for the unexpected. 

Consulting with a team of professionals with experience in product launches is advised. They can help you establish a comprehensive product launch plan, which includes a communications schedule. This provides all members of the project launch team with a clear understanding of the scope, timing, and implementation of the process.



Create and Follow a Documentation Plan

A Documentation Plan which is customer-focused is the most efficient way for technical documentation managers to control costs and lead to a successful launch. The goals of this plan are:

  • to enable each task to be delegated appropriately
  • to allow efficient use of resources
  • to share customer documentation execution strategy with the engineering, marketing, and implementation teams
  • to track the progress of product development and modify the Documentation Plan as needed


Create a Customer-Focused Training Plan

This serves two purposes. Primarily, it will establish a program to train the sales, customer service, and support staff on the new product so they are prepared to help customers install, use, evaluate, troubleshoot, and maintain the equipment.

In addition, it should also:

  • create a training kit for sales, customer service, and distribution partners
  • provide the sales tools and collateral
  • schedule training sessions for those selling the product
  • ensure service personnel are trained and ready to assist with spare parts and service


Watch our video series about biomedical innovation. 


What Determines Success or Failure?

As mentioned above, accurately assessing the customer's need drives more successful product innovation with better outcomes. Some suggest incorrect pricing and fixing a non-existent problem play a part. Many companies follow a Stage-Gate process, where every activity and step of a given project undergoes review and requires approval from senior management to proceed.

Others propose a lack of precision behind sales and marketing planning and execution play a significant role in new product launch success or failure. They point to four areas of rigor that should be considered by sales and marketing teams: Planning, defining the customer, refining value propositions, and developing marketing strategies and tactics. 



While new technology and devices continue to transform the medical landscape, success or failure may depend on established principles of understanding who your key stakeholders and clients are. Then provide the sales force with targeting guidelines which reflect the segmentation per customer needs to give them individually detailed goals to help them perform and align with your strategy.


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