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Excellence in Usability


Posted by mddiadmin on April 1, 2007
You can have a great idea for a medical product advance, but if you can’t design it in a way that’s easy to use, it won’t mean a thing. That’s the lesson of the 2007 Medical Design Excellence Awards, the winners of which are featured in this issue.

MDEA 2007

Jurors of the competition say that usability stood out as a consistent virtue among winning products.

“One impression that I got from this year's entries is that substantially more attention has been given to usability,” says juror Craig Jackson, PhD, president of Hemosaga Diagnostics. “Users of medical devices commonly work under stressful circumstances.” Whether the stress is related to patient complications or to the intensely demanding environments, the opportunity for errors always exists. “Design for simplicity of operation, robustness of device performance, or, for in vitro diagnostics devices, detection and correction of errors, is improving,” he continues. “In this regard, the findings associated with medical errors are clearly being taken seriously. The trend of integrating new technologies is evident, as is the demand for convenience and ease of use.”

For example, says juror Michael Wiklund, “inexpensive color liquid-crystal displays, as found in many of the award winners, are making it possible to give medical devices a stronger voice. In place of small displays or readouts, large displays are able to give users detailed instructions and present results in large, readable forms that stand to improve usability and reduce the chance of critical use errors.” Wiklund is president of Wiklund Research & Design.

Improved usability may be a result of more disciplines being integrated into the product development process, says juror Mary Beth Privitera. She is assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Cincinnati's Medical Device Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program. “Many submissions highlighted detailed research efforts to prove their device efficacy while maintaining user-centered device design,” she says. “Medical product design is evolving to better integrate disciplines including manufacturers, clinicians, engineers, business developers, and industrial designers. Such integration has led to the development of devices based on scientific knowledge and usability.”

Edmond Israelski, PhD, human factors program manager for Abbott Laboratories, adds that perhaps because of this diversity, “I see more attention being paid to the inclusion of usability studies in the design process.”

Usability is also a theme that runs through the three articles on design trends included in our coverage of the awards. One covers products that represent a significant transformation from the previous standard of care—and improved usability can be credited for many of the advances. Another covers products that derive increased capabilities and usability from their software, and a third covers devices that are ingenious for their simplicity and ease of use.

We know you will enjoy reading about the winning products and can learn from their success.

MDEA 2007 Winning Products and Suppliers


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