Avinash Konkani: Applying User Experience and Design Thinking to Medical Device Design

User Experience (UX) and design thinking can be applied in every stage of the product design, development, marketing, and postmarket surveillance. UX is critical to make sure the product is designed to meet the end-user’s expectations (a “user-centered designed product”). We can apply these same concepts to the medical device industry.

For example, after we purchase an item from Amazon.com, we will get an e-mail from the seller within a few days of receiving the item. In that e-mail, the vendor states that “Customer Service is everything to us! We want to make sure your expectations were met for your order.” Also, they provide an online survey in that email where you can provide your feedback on your experience from the point you placed the order to the point where you have been using the product.

Do you receive such kind of service when you place an order to purchase a medical device/equipment?

Let’s take a step back. Even before you place an order on Amazon, you review the comments written by existing users, you review the overall rating of this product, you can see how many customers have provided the rating for each category of the rating. All of these factors help you in making an informed decision to purchase the product or not. After you placed the order, Amazon automatically sends e-mails (to you) to provide you an update on the status of your order. Thus, they are keeping you informed on when to expect the product at your doorstep. Amazon does this for all products irrespective of the cost.

If Amazon can do this, then why not medical device manufacturers? I understand that complex medical devices need more than online reviews. I am referring to the medical device products that do not require such an in-depth analysis. Do you agree?

User experience in postmarket surveillance: Do you have any experience where the medical device manufacturers have reached you to get the user experience feedback, after you purchased equipment and have used it for a few weeks or a month? The users are not just the clinical end-users, but also the patients and their family members (as they feel, see, and hear these medical devices), biomedical equipment technicians, clinical engineers, hospital environmental services, loading dock staff (they receive all of the equipment), and other departments such as purchasing, accounting. Thus, the goal is to enhance the overall user experience of the medical device.

I believe that medical device manufacturers can achieve this goal of enhancing overall user experience with their medical devices. But it is a matter of recognizing this as a challenge by the leadership and work on to solve it. What do you think?

Avinash Konkani, Ph.D., AHFP, is senior clinical engineer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, in Boston, MA. He serves on different committees of AAMI and ACCE and is an ABET Program Evaluator (PEV).

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