Friday, March 21, 2008

Design considerations for Medical Devices

At Macadamian we're working on a number of projects developing the software for a medical device product. I've noticed a trend lately, that medical device companies are increasingly more interested in usability and good design.

What's driving this? Part of it may be spilling over from other sectors, such as consumer electronics, where Apple is showing all of us how good design, and creating affinity for a product can make a product wildly succesful. Another may be that customers of medical devices are expecting more from device manufacturers, because human-error caused by poor usability can be life threatening.

A major driver is that there are more medical devices coming to market that are being purchased or used by the patient, in their home. For the designer of the device, the environment where the device is going to be used is no longer consistent (i.e. a sterile hospital), and the user no longer a trained professional. Design is now a key consideration, and now has a much greater role in the ultimate commercial success or failure of the product.

There's a great article in DeviceLink about the challenges of developing medical devices for the home, the keys to great product design, and an overview of the user experience best practices for designing a successful device.

2 comments:

Didier Thizy said...

From what I've seen in biotech - previously the companies that got their technology to market first had a big advantage, regardless of how poor the interface was. That's why you have so many legacy apps that still have notoriously bad interfaces. Getting the cutting edge technology to market sooner was the differentiator.

Now in some of the more mature biotech domains, the competition has caught up and it's harder to differentiate yourself in terms of the science. For example, a company could invest $500,000 to increase the precision of their device another 0.01%, or for a fraction of that cost they could invest in a tremendously more usable software. The differentiator has changed.

Predictably, some outsourcing companies are now specialized in biotech, for example http://www.bioanalytical.net/ . However, without the UE aspect, will they really be satisfying the right demand?

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