Home healthcare devices present a whole new set of challenges for human factors engineers.
Imagine this scenario: You think you’ve designed the perfect home healthcare device. It’s intuitive to use, visually appealing, and, of course, safe and effective. You think you’ve covered all your bases. Then, the patient takes the device home and her chihuahua immediately devours it like a T-bone steak.
Welcome to the world of home health.
“If it can happen, it’s likely to in the real world,” Tyler Blake, principal and chief scientist at Human Factors Consulting Services, told an audience at the MD&M West conference in Anaheim, CA, today.
Blake was moderating a panel discussion on the movement of medical technology from clinical settings to the home—a migration that panelist Ron Pierce, vice president and director of design strategy and research at Karten Design, said makes him nervous.
“This trend scares the heck out of me, it really does,” Pierce said.
Part of the problem is that nonclinical environments are unpredictable, as the previous example illustrates. Designers have to account from everything to pets to family members.
Take this example that Pierce gave. His team was working on a neurostimulator to treat overactive bladder. The device included a remote control, which the patient could use to adjust its settings. What the designers didn’t account for was the woman’s young son, who got his hands on the remote control.
“That was quite an exciting few moments as she was trying to figure out why her insides were going through these gyrations,” Pierce said.
To avoid situations like that, Pierce said designers need to change their mindset when it comes to developing medical devices for home environments.
“We’re still in the field of designing for how people should be instead of how they are,” he said. “The consumer is king. What are we going to do to better understand that consumer?”
Here are some suggestions the panelists had:
—Jamie Hartford, managing editor, MD+DI
[image courtesy of AKEERIS/FREEDIGITALPHOTOS.NET]