How do I make my medical device user friendly?
When it comes to medical devices, the paramount concern has always been safety. Ensuring that a device does not cause harm is non-negotiable. But what if safety is just one part of the equation of creating a successful medical device? There is another aspect that is often overlooked – user-friendliness.
Keep reading to learn more about the complexities of usability engineering and how to make medical devices not only safe, but something practical, desirable and easy for end-users.
Safety vs. User-Friendliness
The standards governing medical device development emphasise safety above all. This has steered companies toward a compliance-centric approach, neglecting the significance of user-friendliness and its integration within a broader business strategy for a product’s overall success.
“Medical companies approach product development looking at what they have to do, instead of doing things to do what you need to make a great product,” explains Pilotfish Innovation Manager Daniel László-Deli. “But for consumer products, usability is a make-or-break issue. If a consumer product isn’t user friendly, people will just not buy it. But people will still buy medical devices if they’re not user friendly because they can save people’s lives, but down the line it can cause more issues.”
Why make devices user friendly?
Creating user-friendly medical devices is vital for patient safety, efficient healthcare delivery, and improved outcomes. Devices that are intuitive and easy to use reduce the risk of errors and mishandling, enhancing patient safety and empower healthcare professionals to focus on care rather than struggling with complicated equipment.
User-friendly devices also encourage patient compliance with treatment plans, particularly for chronic conditions, as they simplify monitoring and treatment. They also reduce training time and costs for healthcare facilities while promoting inclusivity and equitable access to healthcare, contributing to future-proofing businesses.
“If the device is easier to use it’s often quicker to use, which in hospital environments directly impacts how easy it is to schedule in new procedures and how much it costs to add new procedure,” says Mr. László-Deli.
How do you make devices user-friendly?
To create user-friendly medical devices, it’s essential to take a holistic view. This involves defining the most critical aspects of the devices function, analysing how and where the device will be used, and understanding the needs of users and patients.
Mr László–Deli says it’s important to build formative evaluation into the development process and get user feedback as early as possible.
“Sometimes there is a tendency to want to go out for testing with detailed products that are nice and shiny and look good. But in reality, it’s better to go out when you only have a sketch and a paper mock up and get feedback at the earliest phase,” he says.
This approach allows for user feedback and iteration to refine the needs early and mitigate costly late-stage design changes. To get the most valuable feedback, it’s vital to meet the people who will use the device – not just departmental heads.
“The medical industry is quite hierarchical; people tend to only ask people higher up the food chain for input. But it’s important to identify your end users and test your product with them – you need someone who has a more layered understanding and more experience for the best feedback,” says Mr László– Deli.
What feedback do you need from end users?
The medical environment is inherently complex, with devices often serving multiple purposes and used in different contexts. To make a product really user friendly in an often-high-pressure industry, a designer needs to really understand the circumstances in which the device is used.
Mr László-Deli says there’s are lots of questions to consider during the process: “How stressful is the situation? How educated are the people using the device? Is their hierarchy? Are there other also in the room? It that room heated enough for someone to be half naked to apply a patch and perform some checkups for 30 minutes?” he says.
Not only are there the functional aspects to consider, but the logistical phrases of the products use-case.
“For one device there might be someone who puts it on a patient, someone who cleans it, and someone who measures the data. You need to think about what environment is the device stored and cleaned in and who is responsible for what and how is information handed over. Maybe your device can even help the flow of information through the use,” says Mr László– Deli.
This does not mean safety should be forgotten – quite the opposite. It should be interwoven with usability throughout the development process. By analysing these complex scenarios, you can ensure that your device is user-friendly under various conditions. This comprehensive approach helps (to?) create not just safe but user-friendly medical devices that cater to the real-world needs of both healthcare professionals and patients.
Looking for a design partner?
At Pilotfish, we take a strong focus on usability, with design innovations to make your medical device product both safe and user-friendly.
Whether you need a simple redesign of an existing product or want to create a concept from scratch based on your product line leader, we can make your product user-friendly, desirable and cost effective for market success.
Get in touch!
“Are you looking for a partner who can guide you to create unique user experiences and help you to achieve your digital challenges? Let’s get in touch and tell us what you have in mind.”
Marc Nagel, Managing Director