It may not always be possible for someone to enjoy an experience such as self-injecting with an auto injector but, it’s fair to say that it’s possible to use design best practice to make those user experiences as pleasant as possible.

For example, these days, there are many auto-injectors on the market and as the market has developed, many include features to improve user experience.

User experience and human centred considerations can, and should, be applied to the design and features of all medical devices – it’s just that they sometimes aren’t. While its paramount that a user is not injured as a result of their device, it’s also important that they generally enjoy their time and day to day use, just as anybody else with a general product. While the need for medical devices is rising rapidly, the demand for improved user experiences is increasing too. We can see this in patients starting to advocate choice over the device they use or even making their own modifications such as creating covers or adaptations to improve their overall experience.

Through a blend of my experiences as both a product designer and, a medical device user, I have recognised the importance of really understanding the user and their experience(s) rather than making assumptions. Good user experiences are often those that are so simple and intuitive, they go unnoticed whilst bad user experiences, in particularly in the case of medical devices, can be detrimental to one’s daily living both physically and, psychologically. In the case of consumer products, we have freedom of choice. If we do not enjoy the experience of using our kettle, we can buy another. In matter of fact, we have a choice of hundreds of others that will arrive on our doorstep within 24 hours if we choose. This often isn’t the case with medical devices, users are expected to put up with negative experiences in exchange for the benefit to their health.

These considerations can start by involving some extra thinking and activity in the design process. It’s critical to understand the user experience before you can design to improve it. Some activities to do so in the immersion phase of a project could include, but certainly aren’t limited to; User Diaries, Observations, Brainstorming Sessions, Surveys, Hopes & Fears, User Journey Mapping, Focus Groups, Personas / Character Profiles, Scenario Setting, Role-Playing, Interviews, asking the 5 x Ws as well as use of immersive technologies such as PEL, VR, simulation gloves, glasses etc.

However, I cannot stress the importance of knowing why these activities are being undertaken. That why is not just to tick a box or please regulators. I have been in countless focus groups where the facilitator has a list of questions in front of them. These questions, have spurred incredibly insightful and important conversations amongst participants pointing to real areas of need for new design and improvement meanwhile, the facilitator, is trying to move forward to the next question with little engagement and not a note taken. These insights, that may seem minor and insignificant to someone disconnected from a topic or experience, are so important to identify – While missing them is often detrimental to improving overall user experiences and poor for any project, capturing them can improve a number of factors including risk and compliance.

There is such value and importance in taking the time to really immerse yourself in and develop an understanding for the users (and importantly, a range of users) day to day while acknowledging that you’ll never know exactly what it is like. As an example, I was speaking to an African-Jamaican device user once, he asked, “Why is it that devices are always white or beige in colour yet marketed to us as ‘neutral’ and designed to ‘blend in’ – has anyone ever considered the number of people like me who that solution doesn’t fit or blend in with at all. Ironically, I’ve never felt like I stand out more than when I’m wearing a ‘nude’ device.”

This example is just small snippet of the wider picture and overall user experience journey yet, clearly impactful and something to be addressed. In my experience, device users generally always want the best not only for themselves but, others too. You should involve them throughout your entire process wherever possible. Show passion, interest, and willingness to immerse yourself and learn. If you cannot access your user group directly, involve those who are closely engaged with them for example, HCPs, close family, friends, carers or charities. If you are struggling to access your users, meet sufficient ethical protocols or plan your research, there are institutes such as the NIHR that can help advise on the process. If you would like to learn more or discuss how Haughton Design can help with your medical device or product development then please reach out to enquiries@haughtondesign.co.uk

 

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