The Expanding Role of Experience Design in Point of Care Product Development

4 APRIL 2017

Healthcare is a field of ever increasing complexity, making good Experience Design of diagnostic instruments and connected healthcare ecosystems more important than ever before. Cece O’Connor, Invetech’s Global Director of UX Strategy & Design, recently gave a presentation about Experience Design and its importance in Point of Care (POC) testing’s present state and future direction at the 24th International Molecular Medicine Tri-Conference in San Francisco, California. Below are highlights from this presentation.

The changing Point of Care environment

POC devices have contributed significantly to overall IVD growth over the last decade, and appear to be headed toward an even greater role in patient diagnosis and monitoring. Coincidently, POC testing itself is evolving quickly due to several elements that are changing in the market. Some of the factors driving this evolution include:

  • Patient testing and monitoring are rapidly moving beyond the central hospital or clinical laboratory to patient care settings like physician offices, patients’ living rooms, or medical care spaces in developing countries and remote environments.
  • Test implementation is moving from trained lab technicians to nurses and other care providers with limited exposure to diagnostic protocols.
  • The integration of new technologies is happening just as quickly as the POC market is evolving. For example, sensors that can capture data about patients are steadily edging their way into the POC sector through the application of Internet of Things (IoT) technology.
  • Connectivity is a large part of making an instrument that can fit into a user’s current workflow; however, instruments designed for the POC setting have yet to create a truly connected experience.

These changes come with very important implications for how POC instruments need to be designed and developed. As the POC diagnostics market continues to evolve, conducting front-end user research that considers the environment in which an instrument will be used as well as the user’s goals and needs is imperative for market success in this changing environment.

A more human-centered design approach

Front-end discovery research is an essential part of Experience Design, which is a human-centered, ecosystem-based process for product development. Experience Design is about designing a system that works for people and takes into account the challenges they face.

At Invetech, our Experience Design team leads usability engineering for regulated devices, yet also has deep training in techniques such as design research, including ethnographic research (a branch of anthropology) and cognitive science. The art and science of Experience Design covers physical and digital interactions and looks beyond the primary user to all key players in the ecosystem. It is the heart of innovation because it helps us build instruments that solve real problems that people have and drive simple, intuitive experiences.

As Cece puts it, “good design starts with finding problems, not just solutions. If you start with understanding the problem, the solution is meaningful.”

Conducting front-end discovery research can help define potential problems and allows us to create a more efficient and innovative prototype from the beginning. For complex systems like diagnostic instruments, this can make a big difference in reducing unnecessary costs and improving time to market.

Front-end discovery research for POC instrument development

Our process for front-end discovery begins in a very collaborative way. We bring a team together to uncover what we know and what already exists, and we build our framework upon that knowledge. Then we develop a protocol that's very rigorous, yet flexible, allowing us to survey what happens in the field and explore a path that will help us to understand the “why” behind the behavior we observe.

Depending on what our research goals are, we put together a team that includes people with a variety of backgrounds in design, engineering and science. The team then spends time with the intended end users in the space where the instrument will be used to observe the workflow and processes. We digitally capture the end users at work, take notes, and pull together themes and synthesize findings.

“We want to observe people doing their natural work, and make them feel as comfortable as possible to uncover the unarticulated needs,” said Cece.

Front-end discovery research helps to uncover unarticulated goals, needs, and opportunities.

There are many different deliverables that come from this phase of the process, many of which are very visual. These include experience maps which show key workflows and interaction instances for both patients and POC staff, detailed workflow analyses, and storyboards and user journeys, which help to communicate to the engineering and product design team. Using visual alignment diagrams helps ensure there’s no dilution of design intent as the project moves through the development process. This is important for both physical and digital aspects of the design process.

Integrating Experience Design throughout the development process

POC product design typically begins with traditional market and Voice of Customer (VOC) research to gain perspective on customer needs. It should also include usability studies and human factors engineering (HFE) to design for users. But it is front-end discovery research from a human perspective that helps us define the problem space before we leap into solutions.

For Experience Design to be successful, it must be integrated throughout the entire development process—from front-end discovery research, to usability testing and validation.

Experience Design is present at every step of the design and development process.

Conducting front-end discovery research to understand the human needs is much more cost effective and leads to faster time to market than a late-in-process approach. The goal is to design the instrument for the intended environment or context in which it will be used right from the beginning.

“There's a lot of research that ends up in a slide deck and doesn't really get driven into the process,” said Cece. “For a human-centered approach to work, it’s critical that the data gathered is driven into the design and made useful.”

An integrated, human-centered approach throughout the development process leads to systems that support the goals of the end users while providing a more effective and differentiated product design.

Key Takeaways

  • The POC testing landscape is changing in terms of the environments in which instruments are being used, the people using them, and the consumer expectation of seamless connectivity.
  • For an instrument to achieve commercial success in this evolving market, product design must include front-end discovery research and have Experience Design integrated throughout the entire design and development process.
  • Using an integrated human-centered design approach not only improves the overall design, functionality, and marketability of an instrument, but also the time to market, development costs, and avoidance of late-in-stage iterations due to untimely discovery of usability issues and needs.