design & UX for Healthcare: 4 Trends Driving Medical Device Design

Intro

Historically, healthcare startups have focused solely on the technology behind their treatment or diagnosis; the design of the device was low on the priority list. Recently, the medical community has woken up to the hidden costs of poor design: inefficiency (at best) and misuse leading to harm (at worst). 

At Product Creation Studio we have been designing and engineering medical products for over 15 years.  Today’s manufacturing technology allows us to make devices that perform better and cost less; however we are seeing these factors become less of a differentiator for medical device companies.  

For many of our clients, the biggest edge over the competition is now our ability to provide a better outcome for the patients and/or finding an easier way for the practitioner to carry out their job.

Below are four trends driving the future of medical device design.

1 Simplicity

The rising cost and tight regulation of the healthcare industry has continually shortened the time spent on patient-to-practitioner interaction due to crowded schedules, the need for detailed diagnosis and increasing amounts of paperwork and dictation.

Consider the practitioner's workflow and the many things they are doing at the same time - filling out forms, administering standard tests (i.e., blood pressure), listening to patient concerns and questions, diagnosis, suggestions for planning ahead and more.  

Practitioners are intensely multitasking at any moment, and if they are going to pick up your device in a treatment/diagnosis scenario, it must consider the right human factors  (size, weighting), features (buttons, feedback), and user experience (ease of deployment, clarity of information).  

2 Usability

Usability Validation and Design Verification are required for most regulatory submissions.  Our design team is great at diving deep into your user’s workflow to pull out pain points and user needs.  User needs create requirements. Requirements create the features that will address your user’s pain points.  

One unique thing about Product Creation Studio is that we include engineers in the usability effort from the beginning. From a functional standpoint, we are able to learn where the edges are and familiarize ourselves with any constraints we may face down the road. 

3 A Seamless User Experience

Coupled with the rigor of Usability Validation and Design Verification, come the solutions for user interaction.

With our user experience hats on we ask questions such as: Will this product get wet or remain dry? What prep is required from the practitioner (i.e., such as wearing gloves)? Is the patient able to move or immobilized from pain? Can the product be easily wiped down, autoclaved, or will parts of it need disposed? 

The Product Creation Studio design team are experts at ordering and grouping macro and micro interactions into primary, secondary, and tertiary magnitudes.  It is faster and cheaper to make rough user experience prototypes early on in the development process in order to test assumptions, before spending a considerable amount of time engineering components and doing clinical trials.

4 Aesthetics

Everyone agrees that a medical device is a tool that - first and foremost - needs to carry out its treatment without doing harm.  However, aesthetics is a patient-centric feature and plays a strong role in the psychological component of your device.  

If your device is coming into close contact with your patient, it is important to consider the human emotions that may be associated with your device. One question you should always ask is “what emotional impact will my device have on them?”  Consider whether the patient will feel intimidated, worried, calmed or reassured by your product.

The context of use also matters as there is the appropriate design language is dependent on the medical environment (clinical, ER, OR, in-home, etc.).  While visual characteristics may differ for each setting, a commonality is that your product must clearly convey it’s capability and sophistication in these high stakes environments.

Conclusion

The days of beige boxes are gone. In a world more savvy to design, medical practitioners are also consumers - there is a gut feeling that comes into play during purchase decisions for their practice. If my design team does our job right, your product will stand out from the competition and appeal to your users as being appropriate, considered, and capable. 

One last thing spoken from years in the industry: think about involving design in the discussion early on.  We will work with you to figure out scope and timing. Having a strategy for your Experience Design will prove more cost effective and time efficient than expensive tooling changes and "quick fixes" down the road. 

David CzarneckiComment