The medical device industry is steadily growing and is projected to reach $208 billion by next year. The importance of user experience in medical device design is twofold – for the medical staff member who will be administering it and for the patient at the receiving end.
State-of-the-Art Medical Devices
We are living in exciting times where innovative medical devices combine the best of advanced biomedical science and modern engineering. Nuclear technology, radiography, cutting-edge pacemakers, and surgical equipment are being improved to promote quality of life and longevity.
Within the scope of futuristic medical devices, however, it is imperative for the equipment to be user friendly. Anything less is not a true advancement due to the time and frustration of operating it.
Some of the latest medical device breakthroughs include:
Mobility. One of the most intriguing new medical devices is a mind-controlled exoskeleton that aids the disabled in walking. Spinal cord injuries are one of the most prominent reasons for mobility issues – effecting over 250,000 people in the US alone.
This device is the only remedy for restoring the ability to walk to those with spinal cord injuries. The “Mindwalker” works with a mind-controlled brace and a virtual reality (VR) headset to empower walking by using a brain-neutral-computer interface to bypass the injured spinal cord. It then sends signals from the brain to the legs to coordinate walking and other movements.
Emotional Support. Isolation and depression are common symptoms among child patients who are in the hospital permanently or for regular lengthy stays. Robots are now able to spend time with children in hospitals to bring comfort and emotional support. The robots do everything from telling jokes to listening as a child bears his or her heart.
Biomedical Vest and Other Wearables. A biomedical vest is a device that can detect heart issues and to monitor vital signs, even in healthy people. Yoga pants have also hit the scene to provide biodata and treatment. Another wearable device is designed to aid in the event that a heart patient falls or has complications after heart surgery. These wearable devices are being heralded as easy to use and convenient and comfortable to wear.
De-choker. Choking is a common emergency. Many patients who have medical conditions are prone to choking. De-choker is an artificial way to administer the Heimlich maneuver. It is safer and often more effective. This lifesaving device applies negative pressure on the chest to clear the airway for individuals 12 months and older. It has passed clinical trials with soaring success and is now approved for use. LifeVac Choking Rescue is another similar device that is being sold as well. It is available on Amazon for the public to purchase.
Epilepsy. Zap technology where a subdermal implant helps to treat epileptic seizures by monitoring the brain. The device looks for abnormal signals and prevents them from escalating by intercepting them. It is a godsend for those who suffer from the debilitating condition.
Diabetes. Diabetes care is now needle-free. A bio-sensor patch is placed on top of the skin to test glucose levels. More diabetic devices will be debuting soon that will eliminate even more discomfort and inconvenience.
Glaucoma. Glaucoma patients are now able to receive prolonged eye drops through contact lens disbursements. Ocular pressure is then eliminated as is the inconvenience. Administering the correct dosage is no longer an issue.
Functional Futuristic Medical Devices and Accessories
When new technology is user friendly, the sky is the limit. It is vital for all supporting equipment to advance too, however.
Equipment such as top quality fluoroscopy tables can make the operation of new inventions and improvements flow more smoothly. Fluoroscopy advancements now make it possible to reduce exposure while providing even clearer images. As the foundation of the equipment, if is imperative for the fluoroscopy table to meet the needs of the machine. If the table is not stable and built to hold the new and improved fluoroscopy machine, not much has been accomplished.
Medical Device Practicality
While it is tempting to medical device engineers to “wow” the medical industry with their inventions and improvements, it is crucial to do so with practicality in mind. If the device is too complicated to operate with ease, all gain is lost.
There is also great value in the device being comfortable and pain-free to use. It must work efficiently and effectively and be simple to understand and as quick as possible to operate.
Despite the need for simplicity and ease, medical device manufactures must also impress because the competition is too great not to. This poses a true challenge.
Medical Device Design Cognitive Walkthrough
Cognitive walkthrough is a process where medical device design is visualized and accessed for aspects such as comfort, ease in administration, and of course, functionality. Various scenarios are enacted to mimic real life situations that might occur. Decisions are made and improvements are implemented where needed.
Some of the questions addressed in a cognitive walkthrough are:
- Will the device design promote comfort?
- Is the device the ideal size for it’s function?
- Can the device be stored easily?
- Will your device design be safe?
- How easy is it to hold in one hand and operate in the other hand?
User experience is everything. It’s important not only to do a cognitive walkthrough in a lab-type setting but also to see the device in the hands of a medical personnel and a patient as well. The device’s must meet the need it was designed for…and more. It’s popularity among medical staff and patients will determine the overall success.
End-to-End Design Process
The result of a medical device includes much more than mere specifications laid out by the inventor. It applies more than just regulations and specs. Safety is a huge factor. Ease of administration is another. Overall, being user-friendly will seal the deal…or it will go back to the drawing board because if it is not user-friendly, the device will be a failure.
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