Your route to market through usability
There has been a cross-industry movement over the past few years towards customer/user-centricity, whether this is in sales, marketing, retail or product design and development. However, usability is not a new concept and as relatively late adopters of this movement, the MedTech sector has had much catching up to do.
Thankfully the importance of integrating usability and human factors into design and development programmes is now well-known and any consultancy claiming to have the expertise needed to get medical products to market for their clients will be advising their clients on how pivotal usability studies and engineering are to the development of a successful product. At eg we have a refined design and development framework, into which usability and human factors are fully integrated from the earliest phase, maximising the outcome of a product that meets market needs.
Considerations when incorporating usability
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the healthcare sector has increasingly moved into a more hybrid model of remote and face-to-face consultations. At-home devices and remote monitoring have become more prevalent and are now regularly used for patient monitoring and diagnosis. This, however, means devices are often being operated by unskilled users, meaning designers face the challenge of designing for a much wider user-sample than the trained and skilled users in a medical environment. Although knowledge and guidance is more commonly available, as procedures are transferred out of the hospital and GP surgery into our homes, the risk of product misuse increases. Providing product users with a manual in the form of a YouTube video, accessible only by scanning a QR code is not suitable or acceptable for a large portion of the aforementioned user population.
As such, confusion around intended product-use and often misplaced ‘user intuition’ is commonplace. Many parents have laughed at their iPad-playing toddler who tries to operate the home television as a ‘touchscreen’; however, when this ‘device-conflict’ is applied to medical devices, misuse can have catastrophic outcomes. At home-users are having to deal with an increasing number of devices with complex or conflicting user interfaces. Therefore, it is critical to engage users as early into the development process as possible. The sooner issues are identified, the sooner the risks can be mitigated and changes incorporated, which leads to a more efficient product development. There is also a requirement (and responsibility) for medical device companies to operate more end-to-end, closed-loop processes, through which end-user feedback can be incorporated to ensure that poorly designed products don’t create more problems than they solve!
The benefits of incorporating early user feedback are not only from a safety point of view but also commercial. Technology development precedes the market need all too often and incorporating usability into your development presents the opportunity to maximise safety and product performance; both of which are critical to user acceptance and commercial success. Early consideration of usability can, in fact, accelerate your route to market by mitigating the risk of recalls and costly redesigns.
At eg technology, human factors, usability and user-centred design are integral aspects of our development programmes. By incorporating an explicit understanding of the users, tasks and environment into our product design and development programmes, we can create products that meet expectations, requirements and regulations.
Our flexible programmes offer an end-to-end solution, cycling through use-risk assessment and risk management phases. Although our user research and risk analysis are front-loaded, both are consistently revisited and reviewed throughout the full programme. By moving through prototyping and initial test phases in-house, we can assess the areas of highest risk before moving towards the goal of a robust and fully tested pre-production design. Our human factors experts are also engineers; their technical experience and understanding of the development process ensures there is a focus on driving forward the user requirements, creating an integrated, user-centric approach while meeting technical constraints.
Our engineers have a very pragmatic approach to design and every programme on which we work is adapted to the client and their development. We have the experience of balancing usability and human factors with the engineering and commercial requirements helping to maximise profitability and development outcomes, whilst accelerating the route to market for our clients.
Start building a user-centred design process
If you are experiencing challenges integrating usability into your current design ecosystem, download a copy of our eBook, User-centred design; the key to successful medical device development.
Use this free resource as a guide to building a user-centric, integrated development roadmap and to facilitate the creation of a successful, market-ready medical device.
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