How to Put Your Customers to Work

How to Put Your Customers to Work

Co-Creation in Action

Let us stay in the medical field and look at cardiac pacemakers, which we believe is a prototype of the emerging process of value creation. Millions of adults in the United States suffer from various cardiac maladies. Many of them could get a pacemaker that monitors and manages their heart rhythm and performance, a valuable benefit. However, a patient's comfort level would increase substantially if someone or something monitored his heart remotely and alerted him and his doctor simultaneously of any deviations from a predetermined bandwidth of performance relevant to his condition. Doctor and patient together could decide on the remedial response.

The scenario gets more complicated when the patient travels far from home. A mere alert will not suffice. The patient needs directions to the best nearby hospital, and the attending physician needs access to the patient's medical history. How do the two doctors - the patient's primary care provider back home and the physician on call at the out-of-town hospital - coordinate their diagnosis and treatment? Should the patient call his spouse? How can the patient recognize and assess the risks and develop an approach to compliance and cooperation with these medical professionals? Are the doctors, the facilities and services, and the pacemaker all part of a network cantered on the patient and his well-being?

Companies are already installing elements of these network capabilities. Consider Medtronic Incorporated, a world leader in cardiac rhythm management that seeks to offer lifelong solutions for patients with chronic heart disease. It has developed a system of "virtual office visits" that enables physicians to check patients' implanted cardiac devices via the Internet. With the Medtronic CareLink Monitor, the patient can collect data by holding a small antenna over his implanted device. The data is captured by the antenna, downloaded by the monitor and transmitted by a standard telephone line to the Medtronic CareLink Network. On a dedicated secure Web site, physicians can review patient data and patients can check on their own conditions - but no one else's - and grant access to family members or other caregivers.

Medtronic's CareLink system goes beyond the cardiac device itself and unleashes opportunities for an expanding range of value-creation activities. For example, each person's heart responds to stimulation slightly differently, and the response can change over time. In the future, doctors will be able to respond to such changes by adjusting the patient's pacemaker remotely. Furthermore, Medtronic's technology platform can support a wide range of devices and remote monitoring/diagnostic systems, potentially used for monitoring blood sugar readings, brain activity, blood pressure and other important physiological measures.

Now, as a manager, consider the following questions:

1. How does the patient actively participate in the process of co-creating value?

2. How does the quality of the patient's interactions with the doctor, the family and the staff of the out-of-town hospital affect the quality of the patient's overall experience?

3. What is the basis of value creation here? What role does the total network of related products, services and caregivers play in creating value? How can any one of them create unique value with the patient at any given point in time? What if the patient values the whole experience co-created with the network, and not simply with the pacemaker?

4. How does the network's ability to accommodate different situations affect the patient experience - different time and location of the event of an irregular heartbeat? Can the same individual have a different experience with the network under different circumstances, depending on the context of the event and his personal preferences at that moment in time?

5. Can companies create an environment that generates experience variety without burdening the consumer with a variety of products and services?

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