Publication Name: ETHealthworld.com
Date: 05 November 2015
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By Rutuja More
When designing a product, what are the key essential aspects to keep in mind?
Is it for the end user? Does it function well? Is it aesthetically pleasing?
While some of these questions are relevant, some are not. In the past, the main focal points of design were product economics and external hardware. Many device manufacturers are following the traditional top-down processes like the waterfall model instead of more agile processes that allow feedback-driven requirements definition. Whereas, requirements gathering in engineering is a formal process inhabited by device manufacturers to lock down requirements early in the product cycle, which is an anti-thesis for the usability-centered design process that thrives on feedback and happens to be the norm. This is the primary difference between UX in medical device design vs. any other consumer device.
Also UX design in healthcare is different in comparison to design in other industries in another aspect i.e. the data. Data input for medical devices is different from data input in other devices such as a smart phone. For instance, the UX interface of a medical device, such as an MRI scanner, would not be easily comprehensive for someone who does not understand medicine. However, this has probably lead to UX design in medical devices not being focused on that much (Source). The reason for this may be that designers are more inclined to design for process rather than feedback (Source).
On the other hand, designing a medical device is not an easy job. There is a long process that goes behind it. In addition to this, for the designer to make the product easier to use, it makes the whole process even longer (Source). However, today, it’s the experience that makes a product stand out amongst its competitors. Some key aspects to keep in mind in order to speed up the design process while incorporating UX Design in a medical device.
Who are your users?
When designing a product, this is the main question. Who is your user? In the case of medical devices, designers almost always conclude that it is the doctor who is the end user. However, a tiny percentage remembers that there are other operators too, such as nurses, trainee nurses, interns and in some cases, even the patient. Keeping the wide range of users in mind, the designer needs to make the user interface intuitive, easy to understand and use – in other words, the design needs to be kept simple (Source).
This also means that when the device is new to the user, there needs to be minimum training required to operate it. People working in the medical industry have a lot of things on their mind – their patients, their long work schedules, their patient diagnosis and many others. Requiring extensive training to use a device is adding on to their workload. It is essential to keep the process simple and easy to assist the doctor to reach to a diagnosis and make a decision.
The end user can also be a patient. With the internet overflowing with information, patients are able to search and read about various symptoms, cures and basic medical advisory articles on their conditions. This has made the patients more aware of their medical conditions and they are able to understand their health diagnosis much better. This gives room for patients to operate certain basic medical devices on their own.
For example, in the past, patients used to go to the doctor to check their blood pressure. Today, there are digital blood pressure machines that a patient can have at his/her home. The device has a simple user interface, with two to three buttons, and one display monitor (Source)
With the rise of the Internet of Things, the line between digital and physical experiences is becoming thinner every day. To bridge these two dimensions, we must take the user context into account. We are transitioning to a world where physical products are expected to come with a digital experience—for information, for added value, or for administration and configuration.
Machine vs Human
Designers are very well aware of a concept called “overdesigned product.” Although medical devices are designed to make the process of patient diagnosis easier, that is all it should do. The device should not be designed to make a decision for the doctor. The final decision is always in the hands of the doctor. Therefore, the user interface should be simple, but so should the functionality of the device.
Today we are looking at concepts like voice recognition to put data (Source) in order to make diagnosis more detailed. Other designs are looking at embedded devices in our bodies to keep track of our health. More evolved and robust development frameworks that have many more built in, native abilities to render responsive experiences are enabling teams to push further beyond the standardized experiences across device types. More time and effort can now be spent applying design and development to tailoring experiences outside of the core symmetry across devices, and to think in terms of more optimized experiences that are truly suited to the context of the user needs, intents and interests. (Source) If that is the future, the present is doing well to inspire it.
The future is “designing the experience”. Healthcare is an essential industry that needs to be able to cope with an ever-increasing demand. If we take the opportunity to design the experience of the future at every point in the healthcare system, then we can not only maintain the high standards of the system but improve it greatly, along with the well-being of the population as a whole.