Becoming a health-innovation team

Team Phoenix, consisting of Rasmus (our engineer), Marcus, Tore and Mette (all medical doctors) rose from the ashes ready to create, iterate and need-validate.  Team Phoenix (now called Droplet IV) from left to right Tore Allerup, Rasmus Fält, Mette Dahl and Marcus Bech.

As the philosophy of the BMD Programme is the interdisciplinary teamwork that allows for both a 360 degree look of a clinical need as well as a qualified evaluation of solutions, we were a bit concerned about the overlapping backgrounds of our team members and which competences we would be missing to bring real improvements to healthcare. Nonetheless, we quickly realised that the interpersonal relationships and the distribution of various roles and responsibilities was a much stronger driver for group success than the experiences we each brought with us.  

A little more than a month after forming our group, a large task was approaching. We had to do a pitch on the needs and solutions we were working on to gain feedback from the BMD staff and advisors. At this point we were still working on four different needs and we had the opportunity to go to Aalborg to explore one of them in detail. We put ourselves in the position of the patients by participating as test persons in a trial, working to improve the diagnosis of opportunistic infections in the lungs. 

Here we are trying out the device just as the patients would use them.

Participating in the test took a lot of time and although it meant we had little time to do the presentation, we learned how valuable it was to really engage in the needs we worked on. We realised that we were a strong team with great executive skills that could quite quickly do a high quality presentation and allow time for other tasks. Our personal and professional competences complement each other really well and from this point on we knew that team Phoenix were going to go far.  

Too many needs, too many solutions

“Getting out of the building” is one of the key rules of BMD, and you never know where you end up. Picture from a fungi farm as part of exploring a clinical need.  

Initially, we worked on four different needs, all in different clinical fields. This was a bit complicated, as we all were so eager to learn and wanted to participate in meetings, ideation sessions and take on even more clinical validation to better qualify the most promising solution. We liked bringing our different competencies into play, but also found it difficult to balance the deep immersion that you need in a specific area to develop promising solutions with keeping all four needs open and trying to weigh them against each other. Therefore, we finally chose to focus solely on one concept. And funny enough, it was probably the concept we all had the best gut-feeling about all along.  

Focus, get out and accelerate 

Focusing on our favourite solution, we really professionalised our team. It was around this time that we also took on specific responsibility areas and were able to accelerate our journey. In the process we have been in contact with researchers and key opinion leaders in Denmark, UK, US and Australia, we have visited multiple departments to gain direct user-feedback, and examined the procurement and manufacturing pathways, as well as investigated relevant investors and advisors, that are essential for bringing our product to market.  

Key to a successful product is direct user-feedback. Tore is showing one of our early prototypes in the clinic (The prototype have been blurred for patentability purposes).

The greatest gain, besides founding the team, is getting to know the rest of the fantastic 21/22 BMD cohort.

BMD is more than just an exceptional postgraduate programme. It is an amazing chance to create new strong bonds with likeminded people in a crazy inspiring environment. Participating in the BMD programme really has been an outstanding experience for the four of us. Following the programme, Rasmus will start a new position as an innovation consultant at Rigshospitalet and Mette will start her medical specialisation. Tore and Marcus will devote full time to our project and have support from Rasmus and Mette, who will participate part-time. We are so excited about the journey that we take on together and feel so fortunate to have spent 10 months of personal and professional development with our fantastic co-fellows.  

Now Team Phoenix is excited to jump into the world of Healthtech Entrepreneurship. We hope to meet you out there!

Finding unmet healthcare needs

Despite being 1) an engineer; 2) a man; and 3) having zero professional medical experience, this week I began observations in a gynaecology and obstetrics department.

Four weeks ago, I became a Fellow on the Novo Nordisk Foundation BioMedical Design Fellowship. Since the start of the programme, I - and the seventeen other fellows - have received a thorough introduction to the many facets of value creation within healthcare.

The 2022/23 BioMedical Design Fellows at the kickoff event in Middelfart. The fellowship admits a diverse group of individuals, with backgrounds varying from a range of medical disciplines to managers within large multinational companies.

We’ve covered most of Denmark for a range of workshops and seminars on a variety of topics including need statements, health economics, MedTech innovation, the Danish healthcare system and more.


In between we’ve met and spoken with numerous experts and advisors; been onboarded at our clinical hosts; and even found the time to get to know each other.

The ultimate objective of the programme is to produce impactful healthcare innovations, built on a foundation of in-clinic observations, the first ‘proper’ phase of the programme (Clinical Immersion).

The central aspect of needs-based innovation is what initially drew me to the programme. All too often, and speaking from painful prior experience,  this problem-identifying step is rushed, or ignored completely.

This emphasis on problem finding, combined with a cohort of skilled fellows, and the potential of our solutions to create a meaningful impact made joining the programme a no-brainer.

After the completion of the immersion phase, our focus will shift to solution creation and commercial development, where needs identified in-clinic are developed into refined solutions and prototypes.

Although my background in technology research and development appears better suited to the latter stages of the programme, the boot camp stage has me feeling ready to get started.

I feel prepared, but also a little apprehensive. I understand the expectations of a fellow on the programme, but I have no idea what I am going to experience.

What am I going to see? How will I be received by patients? What is it like observing a birth? Will I uncover any unmet needs? Will they be any good?

Time, as we have been told on many occasions so far, to lean into the process.

5 years wiser in only 10 months!

The BioMedical Design Programme (BMD) is an intense 10-month experience loaded with tons of

invaluable learnings. Here are some of the reasons we, Team Inventricle, think we got 5 years wiser in 10 months.

Facilitator of the week

Since interdisciplinary teamwork is a cornerstone of the BMD programme, there was a lot of

excitement leading up to the team announcement and team building seminar. We were lucky to

be placed in a very diverse team, with both engineers, doctors and a nurse. At the seminar we

were introduced to the phases you have to go through to become a high performing team –

Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. Like most other teams we also had to go through

these and it wasn’t always easy. But we learned a lot about each other and our team dynamics

along the way. One thing that we implemented was to have a “facilitator of the week”. That made

sure that everyone had the opportunity to plan and direct the team in the tasks at hand, and we

learned that our team worked a lot better when someone explicitly took the role of facilitator.

Get out of the building

Working with MedTech innovation you have to leave the office space. No matter if it’s about validating needs, ideating concepts, or testing prototypes, getting out of the building is an essential activity to master. It’s almost a philosophy or way of working that will influence most activities and make sure you don’t base decisions on assumptions. However, you have to be smart about how you talk to patients and clinicians as they can easily lead you down the wrong path if you don’t phrase your questions the right way. To do this right, we found “The Mom Test” by Rob Fitzpatrick to be a fantastic resource.

See one, do one, and raise the bar

During the programme, a general learning concept is the “See one, do one” concept. Monday

could be filled with inspiring teaching from domain experts, and then the rest of the week is for

you to go out and try what you’ve learned in your specific project. This is an excellent way to

make knowledge stick with long term memory. In addition, outcomes are frequently shared

between the teams to inspire each other. A sense of healthy competition among the teams

helped us all raise the bar for what can be done, like going across the planet to validate a need or

meet with key opinion leaders.

You make your own calls

On paper, the creative skills phase is about how to generate ideas. The tools to facilitate this are thoroughly taught, but our favourite takeaway from this phase is the mentality of being our own autonomous design team. No matter the tool, it’s our responsibility to stay agile and modify those tools to best test our hypotheses.

Never too late to pivot

During our time at the programme we have heard many tales of all the amazing pivots that have

happened in the previous cohorts. Luckily, we got to try one ourselves as well, and hopefully it will

be added to the list that the future fellows will hear about.

We only had about 6 weeks left before the final pitch when we decided to pivot and focus on

children with urinary incontinence instead of collection of urine samples, so we had a lot to do in

a very short time. But we learned that this time we could really divide and conquer because we

had learned so much the first time around. It made it a really fun and exciting experience to try

and get as much as possible done in such a short time. We managed to talk to a lot of

stakeholders and interview several parents and children in both Denmark and the USA. We even

did a Facebook campaign to understand more about our potential customers and the willingness

to pay.

Pitching

All of this led us to the culmination of the programme, which was the final pitch. All through the

programme we have been training our pitching skills both formally and informally. This is such a

valuable skill no matter what you do – to be able to clearly communicate a need and idea to

anyone no matter what their background is, and in a way that they will remember it afterwards.

So, what now?

At the moment we are wrapping up our project and our time at the programme. No one from the team is continuing on with the project as of now. Instead, we are handing over the IP and all of our knowledge in this area to the BMD programme. We do this because we want to share what we have learned and so the project can continue to live on if any students or future fellows want to continue some of the processes that we started.

We are excited about our future. Frederik and Christian already landed jobs at Duckwise and Trifork respectively, and will continue a journey within Digital Health. Gulcin and Nanna are still looking for the right match workwise. Nanna is looking for a job where she can combine her nursing background with all the new skills she got as a Biomedical Designer.

How to pick up electronic skills

While I am not experienced with tech-things like 3D-printing, digital prototyping or electronic devices, I am certainly always up for a challenge. I love learning new skills and for this reason, I was particularly excited about the prototyping workshops, we had as part of the Creative Skills Phase.

My background is nursing but…

I am Nanna. Before joining the BioMedical Design Programme, I worked at Aarhus University Hospital for six years at the Department of Endocrinology and Internal medicine. Most recently I worked at the Department of Mother and Child.

Working as a nurse involves numerous different tasks, and many are very hands-on. I have always enjoyed working with procedures such as insertion of catheters and feeding tubes because they require a certain dexterity and specific skills.

In my private life, I also love creating things with my own hands and learning-by-doing, that being knitting, gardening, or putting up lamps and shelves in my home.

I want to challenge status quo

Teambuilding exercise outside the Aarhus office

I applied for the BioMedical Design programme because I sought to broaden my horizons and challenge myself professionally. In my job, I felt I was beginning to increasingly accept bad or mediocre solutions because of the narrative “that’s just how it is”.
I want to continuously be able to challenge the status quo and therefore the BMD programme felt like a perfect match for me. Learning about design thinking and improving my skills as a facilitator have been some of my favourite parts of the programme so far, and these are skills I will be able to use in my future career, whatever it may bring.

Going on a learning journey

On March 10th, 2022, my teammate Gülçin and I took a train from Aarhus Central station at 5.55 am. We had a long day ahead of us. We were scheduled to visit the Danish Technical University (DTU) in Lyngby and spend the entire day being introduced to the Aduino platform. At DTU we met Jacob Pedersen who described himself as an electronics design engineer and all round hacker. He assured us that he was used to teaching coding to kids at summer camps, and it would be easy-going.

The AHA-moment

We were handed our own kit to start building electronic prototypes, where Jacob quickly got us started on the basics of coding. This is when I remembered that kids are very fast learners, and I really had to focus to keep up with the pace. During the day, I got to experiment with making electronic motors and displays, and by the end of it, I had made a pulse oximeter work on my own! It was an incredible feeling to have made this even though the coding was too advanced for me to comprehend fully at this point.

Knowing the electronic field is good

I am still far from being a programmer, but this was such a cool introduction to an area that I had no prior knowledge about. Now I know that it is possible to do various electronic prototypes without spending significant money or time on it! We are currently experimenting with ultrasound modalities in my team, but since our concept and idea is constantly evolving, we cannot know if we will pivot into a new solution next week. Luckily, we have an electronics-engineer with experience in this field on my team, but the insight I got into coding and user design really benefits me in a way, that I too can be a part of this.

Future possibilities

We are now in the Commercial Skills Phase with the focus of further developing our solution while concomitantly looking into our Intellectual Property, business models and funding strategies. We have a lot of things to do in the next few months, and I am excited to see how far we will be with our solution by the end of the programme.

There is no ‘I’ in teamwork

Our new team is here announcing our team name “Innopatient” at an online event for all fellows. To the left is Christoffer Rinder Larsen, in the middle is Thorkil Anker-Møller and to the right it’s me, Catharina Holland.

On the first day of the team announcement seminar in November, you could feel the excitement flow from all the fellows. It was almost like waiting for Christmas Eve. At this point in the program, we were well into the clinical immersion and had gotten to know each other. My general feeling was that it didn’t really matter who you were placed in a team with, because all teams would be great. Nonetheless, as the time came near for the team announcement, I just really wanted to know.

Foto: The picture on the right shows the Aarhus fellows visiting the pediatric department at Aalborg University Hospital for the first time.

Teambuilding kicked us off

One of the teambuilding exercises was to make a specific figure in the shortest time possible.

The teams were announced at a seminar, which also provided the framework for getting to know your teammates and how you collaborate. I was pleasantly surprised by how the teambuilding activities made it clear to us how we worked as a team and which pitfalls we should look out for. 

Following the teambuilding activities, our first job was to fill out our team mission. This forced us to quickly discuss up front what we saw as the strengths and weaknesses of our new team. It also made the foundation for creating a safe space to discuss insecurities and doubts. At the end of the team announcement seminar, we were filled up with positive energy and knowledge about what we would expect going forward in the program as teams, and we were eager to get started.

New week, new demands.

My team counts three team members, all with different backgrounds. I’m a biomedical engineer myself, Thorkild is a medical doctor and Christoffer is a physiotherapist and a health tech consultant. Naturally we have different ways of thinking, which I see as a big strength. However, being a team member also means being well aligned with your teammates, figuring out how to share knowledge and observations between each other and last but not least how to settle on the needs you want to bring forward into the creative skills phase.

Our team having a moment of reflection on action – a serious moment.

Not left to our own devices

Throughout the program there are scheduled mentor sessions for each team and mid-December was our first session. The team mentor is mainly there to guide us through the ups and downs. For our first session we talked about why we were put in a team together, and it made a lot of sense going over what we had in common and where we would complement each other. Getting personal feedback on that level can be daunting, but it is definitely a great opportunity to help you get to know yourself better both individually and in the team constellation.

It is not all fun and games, or is it?

In a couple of days, the Christmas holidays are upon us, and we as a team have met our first major deadline of handing in our need specification documents. It has been hard, but great teamwork does make the work more fun. I’m definitely looking forward to learning more and to enter the creative skills phase with my team. I’m sure it is going to be both interesting and a lot of fun.

New Year – New Creative Phase

As we rang in 2021 from home, the Biomedical Design fellows also entered the creative phase – from home.

I have always thought of myself as a naturally creative person. But, having been in academia my whole life where structure and formality (sometimes) outweigh being disruptive, I was so excited by the creative sandbox prepared by our mentor Pernille Kølbæk. Pernille’s expertise as an experience designer and her experience at LEGO, really intrigued me ever since the beginning of the program. It’s not just a fancy title, it also makes a lot of sense. And I have always been curious to learn how “play” is used in driving innovation. The kid in me was ready.

Grounded by Covid-19

But it wasn’t an easy journey. The impacts of COVID-19 were still very much felt around the globe. The situation kept evolving and we were ultimately forced to work from home. So how much play can you actually do during lockdown? Thanks to Pernille’s quick thinking and ability to adapt, she redesigned the whole curriculum to work in an online space. And from my perspective, it actually worked out for the best!

New situation – new tools

We kicked-off the creative phase by migrating to Miro, an online collaborative tool, that works pretty much like an electronic whiteboard. It was the perfect medium for doing all the fun activities lined up to exercise our creativity. We started out by unpacking the healthcare needs we had identified by working on a creative design brief. This was quickly followed by the introduction of ideation tools and techniques, with the help of Syddansk Sundhedsinnovation, Randi Lehmann (The “Crazy 8s” is one of my favourites).

Crazy 6 drawings on an early idea on how to protect healthcare staff from radiation.

Rapid prototyping

Using random materials that we could find at home, we were also trained in creating rapid prototypes for our ideas. Given a very short time limit, we were forced to be quick, resourceful, and effective in translating our imagination to something malleable. This proved fun and useful for us in coming up with solutions – ranging all the way from the silly to the promising ones.

Testing, testing, testing

Equipped with the necessary facilitation skills we were able to go out and ideate with external experts and contacts. We were also fortunate to learn from IDEO U teaching lead, Bre Przestrzelski, on the essentials in facilitating co-creative sessions. In collaboration with the Kitchen, Aarhus University’s start-up hub, Pernille prepared two ideation sessions for us to practice our facilitation skills in. Leaning into the program’s timeline, my team, composed of Camilla Waldstrøm, Mercedes Marin, and I, organised four online external ideation sessions with 20 experts from various fields. Tapping into our new learnings, we were able to successfully come up with clearer solution directions for our healthcare needs. To break out of our zoom fatigue, we would sometimes sneak out and work together in person 🙂

Team Sky having a meeting in my living room

And even more testing

To help us see if the solution fits our users, Randi Lehmann returned to give us a workshop on scenario training. This was a very fun workshop where we had to role-play our users in an online space to uncover gaps in the solution. Pernille then invited Martin Ibsen and Peter Lindberg of Syndicate for a very insightful idea exploration and value proposition workshop to help us unwrap the value and potential of our healthcare solution ideas. Martin and Peter challenged us to test our solution hypotheses by testing out our pretotype. My team rose up to the challenge by organising a rapid test on 30 participants over 5 days. Our efforts paid off as this revealed how a small focused experiment can help set the direction of our product development. My team celebrated by sledding down a snow hill and clinking a glass or two (or three).

Team Sky went to the snowy hills of Aarhus to celebrate the successful testing of their pretotype

Structure and formality are needs-to-have after all

Of course, not everything is fun and games, throughout this phase. We were also challenged by issues and sensitivities regarding idea ownership. This was really highlighted by instances where teams working on similar topics had to ideate internally with the same group of people. For me, this emphasized the importance of confidentiality and the use of non-disclosure agreements. It also offered an opportunity for self-reflection, and allowed us to re-visit our team values.

Online session with BIoMedical Design Fellows 2021
Ending Create Skills Phase with a thumbs up

Time for a pitch

At the end of the creative phase, we were tasked to pitch our ideas to the Biomedical Design advisory group. We were nervous, but it turned out to be such a pleasant culmination for all the hard work we have done in this phase. It allowed us to consolidate all our results and bring our ideas one step closer to becoming a start-up. Looking back at what we just went through, Pernille’s creative phase curriculum exceeded my expectations. I might not know how it is sans lockdown, but all I can say is, I wouldn’t have done it any other way.