As our world becomes ever more connected, medical device design has seen a shift towards utilising digital health and connected devices, to give patients more control over their health and provide real-time data for clinicians.

Ahead of SAE Media Group’s 3rd annual Wearable Injectors and Connected Devices Conference, Design Development Engineer, James shares insight into methods for building successful digital healthcare products. As covered in a previous post, Digital Health: 5 Key Emerging Trends in 2022, digital health is a rapidly expanding sector with a wide range of benefits for healthcare providers and patients worldwide.

People are taking their health matters into their own hands, preferring to look up their symptoms before consulting a healthcare professional. This shift in behaviour shows that the consumerisation of digital health is at least partially driven by user habits. Sometimes, in the case of products like digital health apps, users can be presented with an overwhelming number of choices or lack of clarity, often making decisions without the help of a healthcare professional – meaning that people end up defaulting to the most popular choice, rather than the one that best suits their needs.

Some questions worth asking yourself when you have a concept for a new digital health product are outlined below:

  • Who are the users you are targeting?
  • What problem are you trying to solve?
  • Who will from your innovation?
  • What other products do your users utilise and how can you integrate your product into their routine?
  • How does this help the health service/sector you are selling to?
  • What are the capabilities of your current design?
  • Can you prove that your concept works?

It is critical to properly research, test and market your digital product throughout its development. In this post, I will outline some of the main steps to ensure the success of your digital health innovations.

What are user insights and why use them?

User insights are a way of helping paint a complete picture of the specific user you intend to target for your new product. This helps you create a product that is perfectly suited to them whilst aligning with broader market trends. This differs from market research which typically offers broad opinions and statistics about a large group of people. User insights provide a much deeper understanding of individual users or user groups.

It is critical to start initial user research as soon as possible in the design process (even if it’s basic), so you can use the early feedback to influence the design direction and avoid wasting time developing a product that isn’t suited for its intended users.

Valuable insight comes with in-person formative testing, where you can watch people interact with your digital product throughout various stages of development. This allows you to watch interactions and gage reactions in addition to impacts of factors such as the intended environment of use (for example, does the lighting prevent the user from seeing the screen properly?). This testing often reveals issues that were not foreseen previously, which can then be considered in the next concept. As technology develops, there are platforms which can assist with undertaking such testing remotely enabling you to gather quick and valuable insights from users globally.

User insights can also be used to overcome unconscious biases held by the designers, who have maybe assumed something about a consumer or market that transpires not to be true. People will often take the easiest or most convenient route when doing something. So, when presented with a new product they may use it in a completely different way from how you were expecting. If you can remove barriers to use and make the experience as streamlined as possible, you will end up being able to sell to many more people when you launch.

What techniques can be used to gather user insights?

You can use many types of data collection when validating your digital health product. You must decide which combination is best to create a rounded, unbiased, and accurate picture of what your user is looking for, based on your specific project, time and budget. Some ideas are listed below:

General data

  • Usage data
  • Data from existing wearables
  • Smartphone data
  • Clinical audits
  • Focus groups
  • Demographic data

Specific User data

  • Face-to-face interviews
  • Surveys
  • Product demonstration
  • User studies
  • Observations in context
  • 5-second tests

After you have collected your data, it is time to analyse it and interpret the results! You can do this qualitatively or quantitatively, but you must make sure that the data is anonymised to protect any sensitive information.

A popular method is to collate your data into a user journey map that shows who the intended user is, how they interact with your product and any pain points they had with the design along the way. You can then integrate these pain points into your design specification, to enhance the next iteration of the design.

If done correctly, the introduction of a new digital product can benefit thousands of people as we transition rapidly to a digital-first society. To ensure this success, it is important to ensure you are putting your user first when designing a new digital product. User insights can help designers understand if their product will deliver real value to consumers and health care providers, by defining their needs, challenges, behaviours and motivations. If you would like to discuss this topic further or require assistance with your new product or medical device development project, please get in touch with the team at Haughton Design.

Product Design Engineer, James McPherson James McPherson 27 September 2022


Get in Touch with James McPherson

James graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2018 with a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering. Prior to joining HD, he worked in the automotive sector designing Exterior Trim systems for Jaguar Land Rover. As a result of this, he has a strong interest in plastic part design and additive manufacture, and hopes to contribute this knowledge to Haughton, as well as learning new skills that can benefit the company. He is keen to start his training to become a Chartered Engineer at HD.

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