Connected Health is the Wild West of Product Design

The mobile or connected health space is the wild West of medical device design—so much so that no one can even figure out what to call it. A recent informal survey among readers revealed that the term mobile health doesn’t always resonate. Likewise, no one seemed to warm to the term telemedicine. But when we mentioned the word wireless, our readers were ready to tell us everything about their projects.

Heather Thompson

March 5, 2012

2 Min Read
Connected Health is the Wild West of Product Design

Based on recent events I’ve attended and some informal conversations, I’d say connected health, or connectivity, is becoming the preferred nomenclature, but perhaps that is only among designers. Only time will tell, however, and I fully anticipate your letters telling me that your company calls it mhealth, ihealth, portability, or a thousand other terms I can’t even begin to imagine.

What is not subject to debate is the growing attention being paid to the space—and the potential this sector holds as the future of medicine. "By 2017, mobile technology will be a key enabler of healthcare delivery, reaching every corner of the globe," reports an article by EMDTwhich includes insights on mobile health from Jeanine Vos, executive director of mHealth at GSMA. And whatever they choose to call it, engineers and designers are jazzed about the possibilities of connecting patients to their doctors, equipping physicians with data, and creating medical devices as sleek as any consumer device.

That potential is really what lies at the heart of this mhealth movement. But it is not without challenges. The mobile health space is one of converging of technology disciplines, and it requires a new approach to various aspects of device design.

Designers and engineers are looking to consumer, telecom technology, and other sectors to draw inspiration, which should appeal to a new consumer, the patient. They should however, work hard not to become too enamored of their own products.

For example, when we talk about connected health, we are often talking about user interface and the user experience. Sometimes that user is a physician, but more and more frequently, the users are amateur caregivers and even the patients themselves.

Stuart Karten of Karten Design recently told me his philosophy (cheerfully stolen, he admits) on design and user experience. “There are two moments of truth,” he says. The first is emotional. The consumer, patient, or user sees a device on a shelf and based on its looks, packaging, or other features, makes a purchase. The second moment of truth occurs once the product is in use (at home or at the point of care). Good design fulfills or exceeds the users expectations at both moments. If you are looking at creating a connected health device, be sure to consider the moments of truth of all intended purchasers and users.

Heather Thompson is the editor-in-chief of MD+DI. Follow her on twitter @medevice_editor

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