When IDEO worked with Medronic to design the N'Vision, a handheld clinician programmer, they asked nurses what qualities the device should have to make it most useful to them. However, what they found was really most important was an intangible that the nurses themselves didn't think to mention.
When a patient comes out of sedation it's important for the nurse to communicate with them. But the only way to do this is often by touch – holding the patient's hand. As such, any device the nurses used, they would have to be able to use with only one hand. Implementing this important feedback was ultimately what led to the successful adoption of the N'Vision.
Stories like this are what Stacey Chang, director of healthcare practice at IDEO, emphasizes to the audience in his Medtech Innovate talk at MD&M West as part of the seminar, “Wireless Medical Devices.” For Chang, when developing any innovation, whether wireless or in another arena, it's important to ask, “What is the context in which your technology is deployed.” The most innovative technology is useless without adoption by the consumer.
Citing another example in IDEO''s work creating RFID badges for nurses, Chang asks another key question for manufacturers and designers. “Are you using the right metric for success?” Initially nurses at UCSF Medical Center balked at the idea of RFID badges that would be monitoring them constantly. The fear was that Big Brother would always be watching. What they found, however was that the RFID tags afforded the nurses a new level of freedom – the closer monitoring allowed hospitals to gauge when and where nurses were preoccupied, allowing critical tasks to be reassigned and alleviating stress for the nurses, who previously were typically only rated based on their response times.
Such considerations, Chang says, are important as healthcare expands more and more outside of the hospital. “The acute care environment will be everywhere,” he says. He also encourages designers to get away from thinking of patients as patients. The consumerization of healthcare is changing expectations and turning patients into consumers – people who are capable of managing aspects of their own health along with their caregiver. Even something as simple as a design element, like changing a device's color (“Every medical device is blue and white,” Chang jokes), can make a device more attractive to a user. “Are you designing with expectations for the end user?” Ultimately, though he spoke to a crowd interested primarily in wireless innovation, Chang encourages consumer-oriented thinking no matter the innovation you're working on. In a time when many companies are looking to create disruption and innovation in medtech it's important not to ignore the consumer base. “Wireless connectivity is the technology,” Chang emphasizes. “How you use it makes it disruptive.”