Traditionally, medical device development follows a process where technology and functionality are put at the forefront and user experience at the back. Even when engineers focus on making devices simple to use, they rarely consider the users’ experience such as their emotional well-being or comfortability with digital interactions. A glaring gap exists between users and medical products, making it more important than ever to focus on UX design for medical devices.
What is medical device UX design?
Medical device UX design is the discipline of building medical devices that are intuitive, less error-prone, and pleasurable to end users. It looks at all user interactions with the products, takes into account their needs, behaviors, beliefs and perceptions and curates designs that are efficient, simple and delightful.
As user expectations and interactions with the product are changing due to increased digitalization, consumerization of medical devices has become necessary. Well-designed products that serve the users better, simplify their journey and enable them to achieve efficient results are the need of the hour.
Human factor engineering vs UX design in medical device industry
In the medical device development arena, UX design and human factor engineering are often used indistinguishably. Though both disciplines share a common goal of creating positive medical device experience, their technical definition varies.
According to the 2016 human factors guidance, human factor engineering (HFE) is defined as “the application of knowledge about human behavior, abilities, limitations, and other characteristics of medical device users to the design of medical devices including mechanical and software driven user interfaces, systems, tasks, user documentation, and user training to enhance and demonstrate safe and effective use.”
“Safe and effective use” are the keywords here that distinguishes HFE from UX design. UX design encompasses a broader aspect that considers desirability, value perception and usability and goes beyond safety and efficiency. Both disciplines use similar information, but in different ways to meet the common goal of providing a positive experience to users.
IEC 62366-1 is set as the international standard by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the US government for guiding the HFE process of medical device development teams.
Why is medical device UX design important?
Users have never been the top priority for engineers when building medical devices. Factors like lack of understanding and resource scarcity have contributed to this mindset but neglecting UX will no longer work.
- The competition is skyrocketing in the medical device industry and to make a product distinguishable, relying on technology alone won’t suffice.
- Home healthcare products have become popular since the pandemic and users expect an easy and pleasant experience when using them.
- People inherently expect product safety from medical devices today, hence their purchasing decisions are driven by other factors like ease of use and aesthetics.
UX for healthcare devices is important for patients, healthcare professionals and product owners.
For patients and healthcare professionals, good UX design ensures that they can reap the best benefits out of the devices. It significantly reduces training time, decreases the probability of human errors due to poor usability, provides better outcome from device usage and increases the sense of satisfaction.
For product owners, UX ensures that the product is more persuasive and aligned with the latest UI UX design trends, increasing its attractiveness in the market. Moreover it reduces customer complaints and delivers better outcomes, helping to create distinguishable value.
The UX design process for medical devices
Most UI UX design agencies follow the design thinking process which consists of five stages – empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.
Applying design thinking to medical device design, the UX design process can be divided into three key phases – research, design, and test. The standards IEC 62366-1 and IEC 62366-2 serve as the guidelines for designers to build optimized UX for medical devices.
The research phase begins with the gathering of preliminary use specifications from the available data. These serve as the groundwork for conducting user research. User research involves identifying the target users, defining their needs, expectations, tasks and typical use environment. It is advised to use both qualitative and quantitative UX research methods to get a good grip of users' behaviors and attitudes.
When conducting research, the team must be
- Empathetic to perceive things from users’ perspectives
- Observant to note down even the smallest details
- Open minded to accept all information without any bias
The data collected from UX research is used to create user profiles, user scenarios and product requirements.
According to IEC 62366-1, user profiles are “a summary of the mental, physical and demographic traits of an intended user group, as well as any special characteristics such as occupational skills, job requirements and working conditions, which can have a bearing on design decisions”. Generally, a number of user profiles are created for different user groups and are used as the reference for making design decisions.
User scenarios are defined “specific sequence of tasks performed by a specific user in a specific use environment and any resulting response of the medical device” by IEC 62366-1. The scenarios provide use cases and contribute to the creation of product requirements.
Product requirements analysis is kickstarted by analyzing the existing products in the niche. The competitor analysis gives a great idea about the trending features, gaps in the market and undesirable features. To these, the requirements gathered from user scenarios are combined to create a comprehensive and unique product requirement.
In the design phase, the data from the research phase is used to conceptualize and design the medical device. Two aspects of design – user experience (UX) design and user interface(UI) design – constitute this phase.
UX design for medical devices starts with information architecture, where information is structured, categorized and organized to provide an intuitive navigation for users. The information architecture serves as the foundation upon which the sitemap, user flows, and wireframes are prepared.
While information architecture and sitemaps depict the organization of information and connection between screens, wireframes give a rough sketch of each screen. Wireframes don't contain any graphical elements and are designed to showcase the workflow. Wireframes are used to create prototypes which are real-world models of the final product. The focus of all these steps is to design for the users’ experience.
Once the wireframes are designed, the designers begin the user interface or UI design. UI design focuses on the look and feel of the medical device and addresses aspects like colors, typeface, images/illustrations, latest UI design trends, and so on. UI design is not just about creating a pretty interface but about ensuring that the medical device is appealing to the eyes while maintaining usability and functionality.
For example, the age group of the target audience will play a role in the size of the typeface. If the medical device is being designed for older people, a larger typeface would be the better choice. Similarly, when choosing colors, color blindness must be kept in mind so that the device is accessible to all.
Testing is an essential stage in the design for medical devices where the created design is validated on both user side as well as stakeholder side. The goal is to find any unanticipated use errors or bottlenecks in the design and get feedback from real users. Activities conducted to carry out testing involve:
- In-house testing: Testing the product in-house by having team members use it on a recurring basis is an activity every design team can carry out. While it has certain limitations of not being tested by ideal target users, it surely helps to find out preliminary usability issues.
- Surveys: Asking open ended questions to end users on product’s features or functionalities is a great way to gain feedback. Such questions ensure that both qualitative and quantitative feedback is collected from users.
- Usability testing: Moderated or unmoderated usability testing can be conducted with representatives of the target audience to observe and identify usability concerns.
- Analytics: Tracking users’ interactions with the medical devices using analytical tools is a great way to get quantitative feedback. The analytics tools lets designers determine user actions and behaviors like clicks, dwell time, search experience and so on.
Key Challenges in medical device UX design
While designing the UX for medical devices, designers face certain challenges such as:
- Privacy: Strict laws and regulations surrounding medical data enforces that privacy and security are of utmost concern in the healthcare industry. So designers have to be careful to ensure that no sensitive information is revealed and users are informed about the safety and privacy of their data at all times.
- Jargons: While jargons used in the healthcare industry will be familiar to doctors and nurses, common users may find it confusing. Bringing consistency and uniformity in terminologies so that the medical devices can be used equally well by end users is a major challenge for UX designers.
- Research difficulty: Conducting research, an integral part of medical device UX design, is often challenging as the target audience are patients suffering from illnesses and might not be in the right state to provide accurate information.
Benefits of well designed UX UI for medical devices
Good UX UI design in medical devices not only aids the experience but also the efficiency, cost-effectiveness and quality. On the other side of the spectrum, bad UX can be detrimental to even human life. Improving medical device UX design has multiple benefits including:
With the advent of digitization in the medical industry, different products and devices are used throughout each episode of care. At times, users have to interact with multiple devices or navigate through several screens to complete a single task. It's not only frustrating but slows down users and distracts their focus. A good UX design can streamline the user interactions by eliminating unnecessary steps, screens and UIs. This helps users achieve their tasks with minimum inputs.
Reduce cognitive load
Good UX UI design of medical devices brings a consistent visual language to the devices. It introduces a differentiating factor and reduces the cognitive overload for users. When users are presented with consistent colors, user flows and visualization, it reduces the mental processing efforts and makes the device easier to use. By reducing cognitive overload, good UX UI design improves efficiency.
UI UX trends shaping medical device UX design
The past decade has witnessed rapid technology commercialization in the healthcare industry. As a result, people’s expectations of medical devices have undergone a massive change. Today, medical device design focuses more on UX(User Experience) and UI (User Interface), going beyond just functionality and features. The top 5 trends that are shaping healthcare and medical device UX UI design in 2023 are:
1. Immersive learning with Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual Reality (VR) blurs the lines between reality and simulation, providing a platform for individuals to immerse themselves in real-life scenarios within a virtual environment. This technology has found valuable application in the healthcare industry, particularly in the domain of interactive and immersive training experiences.
In the medical field, VR is transforming the way professionals prepare for complex procedures. Surgeons, for example, can now practice intricate surgeries through VR-augmented medical devices before performing them on actual patients. A prime illustration of this innovation is Surgical Theatre, a healthcare services provider that has developed a "surgical rehearsal platform" called Precision VR, tailored for neurosurgical procedures.
Precision VR empowers surgeons with effective preoperative planning tools. Consider a scenario where a patient requires brain tumor surgery. With this technology, healthcare providers can visualize and simulate the entire surgical process in a virtual environment before the actual operation. This capability not only enhances the precision of procedures but also contributes to safer practices.
2. Designing with visual clarity
Simplifying medical device interfaces has been a longstanding goal. One innovative approach is skeuomorphic design, which uses recognizable visual cues to create user-friendly experiences.
Firstly, skeuomorphic design enhances user comprehension by replacing complex medical terminology with intuitive and recognizable symbols. For example, using a heart icon instead of the words "heart rate" or a pill bottle image to represent medication instructions simplifies the user experience. Patients, regardless of their language proficiency or health literacy, can readily grasp and respond to these visual cues, reducing the risk of misinterpretation and medical errors.
Secondly, the skeuomorphic design reduces anxiety and stress for patients by creating a sense of familiarity. Healthcare settings can be intimidating, especially for individuals facing serious medical conditions. By incorporating elements that resemble real-world objects or processes, such as using a thermometer icon to convey temperature information, patients feel more at ease navigating the interface. This comfort and ease of use contribute to better patient engagement and adherence to treatment plans, ultimately improving overall healthcare outcomes.
3. Harnessing data visualization
Analyzing the complexity of patient data and medical information is daunting. Numbers, statistics, and intricate data sets can easily overwhelm both healthcare professionals and patients. However, a remarkable solution to this challenge emerges in the form of data visualization. Through the use of clear and intuitive graphics, diagrams, and charts, data becomes not just accessible but also easy to comprehend.
Imagine a doctor faced with a vast array of patient records, test results, and clinical data. Without the aid of visuals, deciphering these intricate details can be a time-consuming and error-prone task. With visualized patient data, these data points into visually digestible formats, such as interactive dashboard designs or graphically represented trends, healthcare professionals are equipped to gain insights efficiently and effectively. Instead of sifting through endless rows of numbers, they can instantly recognize patterns, anomalies, and critical information. This saves precious time and enhances the accuracy of diagnoses and treatment decisions.
4. The rise of interactive chatbots
Consider a scenario where you can have a natural, instant conversation with a computer that offers immediate assistance. This scenario is becoming a reality thanks to the advent of interactive chatbots driven by conversational AI. These virtual assistants are reshaping patient interactions in the healthcare domain, providing a host of advantages that extend beyond mere convenience.
One of the most significant benefits of these chatbots is their capacity to handle routine inquiries and deliver prompt solutions. Patients can seek information about appointments, prescription refills, or basic medical guidance and receive swift, accurate responses. This streamlines the patient experience and frees up valuable time for medical staff, enabling them to redirect their efforts toward tasks that demand their unique expertise, such as diagnosing complex medical conditions or preparing personalized treatment plans.
Furthermore, chatbots operate 24/7, ensuring that patients can access information and assistance whenever the need arises. This round-the-clock accessibility is particularly vital in healthcare, where timely information can significantly impact patient outcomes. Whether it's the middle of the night or during peak office hours, patients can rely on these virtual assistants for consistent and dependable support.
5. Voice-activated interfaces
The power of voice interfaces is undeniable. Just as we engage in conversations with smart devices in our homes, the healthcare industry is increasingly embracing this technology. Voice interfaces offer a range of advantages, chief among them being hands-free usability, which is particularly invaluable for patients with limited mobility. This innovation allows patients to interact with medical applications and devices simply by using their voice commands, eliminating the need for physical assistance. Furthermore, healthcare professionals also benefit significantly from this technology, as it enables them to control devices and access critical information while keeping their hands free to concentrate on vital tasks.
At Aufait UX, we always keep up with the latest design trends, incorporating them into our work to enhance the usability and user-friendliness of medical devices. We have worked on innovative healthcare projects, creating impactful UX designs for startups as well as established healthcare organizations.
Aufait UX’s experience in medical device design
At Aufait UX, healthcare UX design is one of our core expertises. We have provided UI UX design services for multiple devices and applications in the domain, ranging from medical wearables, to remote monitoring devices and applications, telemedicine software, medical transcription apps and health and wellness apps. Our healthcare designs are well appreciated by OEMs and end users for its usability and functionality.
We follow a comprehensive UX design process starting from research to design and usability tests. Our UX team understands the challenges of working in the medical domain and have gained significant know-how through hands-on experience. They are well equipped to deliver exceptional UX UI designs for our customers. If you would like to know more about our capabilities and engage us for medical device UX design, contact us right away.
- 1. What is UX in healthcare?
UX in healthcare is about making user interactions with healthcare devices pleasurable and meaningful by designing experiences and interfaces that are intuitive and delightful. The user experience of both digital and non-digital medical devices come under this umbrella.
- 2. Why is UX important in healthcare?
Three reasons why UX design is important in healthcare are:
- Competition in the medical device industry is rising, so to make your healthcare device stand out in the crowd, UX is necessary
- Consumer-facing apps today have exceptional UX so people expect an easy user experience from all digital interactions
- Usability issues in healthcare devices can cost lives, so a good UX is mandatory for safety.
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