31st January 2017
by DTR Medical Ltd

A few years ago, a key UK hospital introduced our company to his boss with the words “they don’t always get things right first time, but they keep going until they do.”

It was a compliment we have worked hard to repeat ever since.

In the past ten years we have introduced over 700 Single-use surgical instruments to our range at DTR Medical. These all started life as requests from clinicians who wanted us to provide answers to the question “Do you do?”

Why do you want Single-use?

There are many benefits to Single-use surgical instruments which are encompassed in Time, Life and Cost improvements. Each tool has its own mix of advantages and reason for being required, but often difficult to clean, requires too much sharpening and patient or staff safety are at the core.

Our development team at DTR Medical are very familiar with these requests and we often have over 50 live projects being worked on. The obvious solution is to contact Far East contractors and get them to send samples for clinical approval.

Oh if it was SO easy!

It may be obvious, but in our experience it rarely produces exactly what the customer wants; a Single-use alternative that matches a brand new re-usable instrument for feel and performance that is repeatable.

Whilst Far East contractors can provide low cost product, their quality systems do not enable the consistency of supply that we can be comfortable for DTR Medical to provide with CE Marking.

This means we have to adopt significant extra controls to ensure the customer receives the right product. This takes time and patience and often several rounds of sampling before we get the approval from the surgical community.

We can do this ourselves!

The development path may be longer and require more investment, but increasingly manufacturing advances enable this approach to be viable. We learned this a few years ago with our Frazier Suction HandlesEar Specula and more recently with our Endoscopic Ear Suction tips.

Our Development Team produce high quality CAD work that can be transferred to machine instructions to make reproducible components for the Production Team to assemble in house. This takes more time, but gives us a better end results.

Moulded parts in plastics or metal are also an attractive option, but the time and investment are usually much greater. This means we have to be sure we are giving our customers what they really want. Thankfully, the advent of 3D printing means this is much more presentable to surgeons who can conceptualise the finished product much better.

The devil is in the detail.

Clinical approval from a number of surgeons means we have to produce several samples to get to the end result. This may look like time consuming frustration, but the reality is time well spent because we know feedback in future will be positive.

Once we have the exact understanding and whatever the source, the detail is built into a clear specification that sets the quality standards for all supplies from launch.

Trial & Error.

The development of our Cervical Biopsy Punch with Rotation is a good case study for our overall approach; “if at first we don’t succeed, try again”. Early on we decided to design and make this in the UK because we quickly understood the importance of a cost effective solution for a high demand clinic like Colposcopy. Mass manufacturing was the only way we could realistically meet demand for a price that health providers could accept.

Try it before we launch.

Before launch, the biopsy punch was regularly shown to Colposcopists and Gynaecologists to incorporate their feedback; rapid prototyping was used before the investment was made in moulds to ensure we had a good chance of meet the customers’ expectations for effective first time sharpness with rotation readily available in the clinic.

Even with extensive trial before launch, clinical feedback wanted more from us. A more consistent cut, a better feel and more robustness were common requests. It would have been easy to lock the design because of the financial outlay, but we recognised the importance of if at first we don’t quite succeed, the product will never meet everyone’s needs and we will not realise the products true potential.

Try again, because it is better.

The DTR Medical Development Team made detailed assessments of where we could build in improvement and over the last two years the Cervical Biopsy Punch with Rotation has been subject to a programme of enhancements that involve component modification and assembly adaptations which have resulted in many more customers appreciating what the product now offers; the number of users continues to expand both in the UK and elsewhere and we are delighted that the product cuts well and feels more precise in the clinician’s hands.

Try again, because it is still developing.

The feedback on the Cervical Biopsy Punch with Rotation was much better, but we still heard comments that the jaw could be smaller to enable biopsies in a narrow cervix to be taken easily. These comments were perfectly timed to coincide with our need to re-work our metal injection moulds to double the capacity.

The result is the Low Profile Jaw, first shown at the BSCCP Annual Meeting in Bradford in April 2016, and RCOG in Birmingham this June, which received a great reception from the delegates who tried it with the LLETZlearn® Training Simulator.

Innovation and Opportunity.

We recognise that we cannot expect to get everything right first time. It is our approach to listening to customers and overcoming problems that ultimately results in the best solution. As Albert Einstein once said “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”