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Medical product design: Ushering healthcare at home

Medical product design: Ushering healthcare at home

Thursday June 20, 2019,

5 min Read

The medical technology is increasingly going consumer. As a result, both the patients and caregivers expect that the devices they use to provide care operate with same ease and usability as the common digital products they use every day. As healthcare moves to a home setting, patients need design elements which make the technology more intuitive, easy to use and more accessible. Healthcare product development companies need to focus on those needs which are harder to tease out during design and development phase.

Great design and products usability are the biggest assets of any device to succeed in the potential consumer market. The keys to good design which leads to user adoption are a thorough understanding of the design features and the environment in which the product is used. The new healthcare paradigm is driven by pressure to deliver great experience along with accurate and valuable health data. The OEM’s in the healthcare industry should understand the design psychology which plays a vital role in product adoption.

Healthcare Product Development

Home Health Environment

Healthcare is a multifaceted and complex enterprise. It involves varying interactions and people who need different data points and analytics. One person will be wearing the device (patient), one or more person may need to interpret the data (the healthcare team), while other groups may be responsible to pay for the device (the payers). All these people have varying needs and motivations. The developers may need to design considering all the stakeholders equally. Though the products can be successful only by serving a single stakeholder, depending on who makes the purchase decision, it can prove out to be more useful to serve them all in a way that they need.

You may have to capture the data and provide it to the various stakeholders in a meaningful manner. We can engage the patient in part of their healthcare, making them use the equipment more and respond better to the monitoring or therapy. Designers can look for ways to engage at each step through user experience and data presentation with the stakeholder in the right way so that they use the device more and use it more effectively.

Design features and product adoption

Designers endeavor to overcome the health product adoption barriers. The perception of the product being good or bad is not always based on engineering or design calculations. The medical devices particularly the ones you interact with closely or wear, need to connect emotionally.

Recognizing patient needs can lead to the new design element.  For example, developers of a cochlear implant company found that when they tried to hide the device it made the patients feel self-conscious. So they decided to make implant a fashion accouterment which could be customized to suit their personality. The product resonated emotionally with the patient population and became an award winning product.

The best design work usually comes when you find little hooks that enhance customer experience, that takes a medical device from something a “patient has to do with” to something a “patient wants to do”. The product has value as it becomes a welcome part of everyday life.

User environment and product adoption

The environment where the product is used is also critical. For instance, several devices are designed to be used by doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff. These people work in a hospital environment which is far more predictable than at home. Though hospital setting comes with a huge set of challenges, we know the users and their needs. We know what machines must be present in a clinical room and the level of training the operator has undergone to operate a device properly.

If a device has to be used at home this comes with a bigger question mark. To train a home caregiver or user may need more resources, reminders and safety checks. The videos, websites and visual instructions can be used to supplement written instructions which come with the device, but interface and controls are more critical.

For instance, a company supported clinical model of selling heat-driven acne treatment system through dermatologists. The company wanted to move the product to retail and pharmacy location so the commercialization process began with user redefinition. The essentials of the product which included applying heat therapy to treat acne was being pulled out after research. The form factor and appeal of rest of the product could be changed to suit the need of the new consumer.

Essential questions                             

The users of home health care products, especially for the digitally driven products must be considered as new customers in the healthcare industry. To have a better understanding of the new customer you must begin by asking few essential questions. Who are we doing this for? How are we going to deliver it to them? What are going to be the price points? Where are they going to use the product? These questions can help the design teams pull out the information in order to drive the product line. You may need to follow a rigorous process to get this data.

At heart, it is all about defining the user and putting user needs in place. Developers and designers need to think about ways to measure those needs with statistical data, usability research, and objective. This data puts light on the psychology of new user and can lead the medical device developers down the path of success in home health care.