Mary Logan: Human Factors and Mobile Health

I’m blogging about a blog that struck me after seeing exhibits and poster sessions at last week’s mHealth Summit. Laurie Reed, an engineer at The Farm, a medical device design and consulting firm, was my inspiration. In her recent Farm Blog, she emphasized the importance of human factors in the rise of mobile health.

Laurie cautions us that the “implementation of human factors engineering throughout the design process will be critical for emerging mobile health applications . . . because it’s good practice and is an essential tool for decreasing patient safety risks while increasing usability and effectiveness.” Oh, yeah, and the FDA cares about this, too.

Way to go, Laurie! My “universal” remote control for the TV in our home is a mobile device. It was not designed with a normal human in mind. After three years, I still have to use a visual cheat sheet created by my hubby to switch from cable to a DVD. Although I could die of a heart attack from frustration with this “should be easy” device, my life is not dependent on it to monitor, measure, or diagnose my health. Mobile health devices, including apps, are quite another matter.

Laurie reminds product design teams that “human factors is not a one-time testing event that occurs at the end of the development cycle.” Done correctly, it is an iterative process that “starts with the gathering of user requirements” and includes testing of multiple design concepts, design verification, and a summative validation.

Oh yes, and thank you Laurie for reminding readers to use our standards in this design process, including IEC 62366:2007 and ANSI/AAMI HE75:2009. A book to help guide newbies through the human factors process, Handbook of Human Factors in Medical Device Design, is available for purchase at the AAMI Marketplace.

To read Laurie’s full blog post, click on this link.

Mary Logan

AAMI President 

One thought on “Mary Logan: Human Factors and Mobile Health

  1. It also important to keep in mind the current cohort or target for mHealth (not health and wellness, but actual clinical use) – older people with chronic diseases. In my assessment of several projects in Europe that are using mHealth and remote monitoring technologies, the designers have had to change the interfaces to larger screens (deteriorating eyesight), larger push buttons (diminished dexterity and eyesight) and devices which don’t have measurement artifact due to ‘shaky fingers.’ It also important that the paths by which the information is transmitted aren’t overly complex. The most successful implementation have been ones in which the user doesn’t validate or enter the information manually. The average age of many of the people in the pilots around the world for remote monitoring of chronic disease has been 75+ years. They also tend to have many co-morbidities. So human factors considerations for their range of physiological capabilities can make or break the success of your system.

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