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Creating customer-focused innovation

By Benjamin Brinker, President, International Medical Products & Distribution

Innovation is critical to the success of any company. Whether you’re a service provider or a manufacturer, innovation applied well will provide you with a competitive edge in the marketplace.

There’s no one “best” way to drive innovation, but the approach that resonates most with me is Customer-centric Innovation. In Customer-centric Innovation, organizations focus on creating solutions based on a deep understanding of their customers. Toyota is a great example of a company that does this well.  

It’s also something that we practice at Cardinal Health. If you’re in a company that prioritizes the customer experience or end-user wellbeing, then the best way to deliver innovation that matters to your customers would be to address their challenges.

So how do you inject Customer-centricity into innovation programs? Having spent a number of years working with product development teams, I’ve found that there are three key things to keep in mind: Customer insights, simplification and collaboration.

Customer knowledge
Everything starts with the customer. Beyond listening to what customers say about your products/services, you need to understand their work, work environment, challenges and what might make their work simpler and more efficient.

Cardinal Health’s WaveMark recently launched a new supply automation solution for clinical labs. Clinical labs play a critical role in healthcare. Today labs are grappling with workforce constraints and increased test demand. This new solution will automate laborious, manual inventory-tracking tasks, which will free-up time for lab staff to focus on the medical activities they’re trained to do.

Simplification rules
Focus on solutions that make things easier for your customer. Convenience and simplification are critical in today’s increasingly complex world. This is where applying technology thoughtfully can reap multiple rewards.

For example, mscripts, a Cardinal Health company, offers patients a way to help maintain their health by delivering targeted messages through a mobile and web enabled platform tied directly to a pharmacy dispensing system. This easy-to-use platform helps to enhance the patient care experience, while also making it easier for healthcare professionals to monitor patient medication usage.

Collaborate to innovate  
In some situations, you may find that your own team may not be equipped to deal with certain issues. That’s why collaborating with innovative people outside of your organization can be incredibly helpful. The end goal is to improve the customer experience, not to be the first one to develop a new technology.

Our Fukuroi R&D team recently partnered with DIC Corporation and Osaka University to develop a unique  Fluorescent Ureteral Near Infrared Ray (NIR) Catheter*. The catheter allows physicians to perform surgery while monitoring the exact location of the ureters when using an NIR endoscope. This breakthrough wouldn’t have been possible without collaboration.  

Putting customers at the heart of an innovation programs is great way to create products/services that will be valuable to your customers. It will also demonstrate that you’re paying attention to their needs and helps to build trust. That’s invaluable in itself.  

* Please note that the Fluorescent Ureteral Near Infrared Ray (NIR) Catheter is only approved for sale in Japan, and is not available in other markets.

As President of Cardinal Health’s International Medical Products & Distribution, Ben Brinker maintains responsibility for all commercial activities across the APAC, Canada, EMEA and LATAM regions. He joined Cardinal Health in 2017 when the company acquired Medtronic’s Patient Recovery business. Most recently, Brinker served as the senior vice president and general manager of global products for the Medical Segment. In this role, he held responsibility for Cardinal Health's global branded product franchises, Medical Affairs and R&D functions.

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