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Medtronic's 'Applied Innovation Lab' Aims To Shift Researchers' Perspective

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Medtronic may be synonymous with pacemakers, but the global medical technology company is diverse and keeps evolving. So it should come as no surprise that the Minnesota business is using technology to transform health care.

Employees began using a new space last year to immerse teams into the patient's environment. Just like Medtronic started in a garage, the door to the space opens up new possibilities.

"This is a space where we really try to put the person, in particular the patient, at the center of the process of how we design new products and solutions for chronic disease management," Scott Mark, Senior Innovation program manager said.

It's called the Applied Innovation Lab. In each corner is a space to brainstorm about how and where products are used. There they pull together employees, heath care providers and patients.

"A lot of our products tend to be used in a clinical environment, people spend most of their time not in a clinical environment. Understanding their home life is more and more relevant to health care," Mark said.

They're looking to transform digital health: to use technology as a way to move beyond the medical device.

The focal point of the room is a retractable 360 degree video environment. The 9 foot tall, 20 foot wide circular screen is the only one like it in the world. And it's used to transport team members to other parts of the Earth.

"We can take our designers, our engineers and scientists that work on developing new products and solutions for Medtronic and actually put them in an environment that allows more realistic representation," Brian Bechard with Market Development said.

It allows them to visually experience the system of care. Video of a crowded waiting room in Ghana they learn there's a high demand on the health care providers. And some patients have cell phones.

"There are others with mobile devices as well like this nurse that's walking into the picture. They may not have as many resources as we have in Minnesota so it allows us to customize product and solution for us in that area and work together with providers so we can ensure it's a sustainable solution," Bechard explained.

Teams take the information to build prototypes, to help people visualize what products and solutions look like before their built. At the core, a goal of reducing the burden of a patients disease.

"It's really, really easy when you're developing these high-tech products to focus on the technology which is also very important but we all know that at the end of the day people are the ones that benefit from these things," Mark said.

One example of what came out of the lab is a team wanted to better understand bladder control loss. They would mimic the symptoms to understand what it was like. Eventually the information was used to build an app to help manage the condition.

Click here to learn more about the Applied Innovation Lab.

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