The secret to designing useful mobile health devices is identifying the end-user and having a clear understanding of what problem your product solves for them.
By Alexa Konstantinos
A key theme at last month’s HIMSS mHealth Summit was “engagement.” Engaging patients. Engaging healthcare providers and administration. Engaging the worried well and quantified selfers. In contrast to a few years ago when the buzz was the whiz-bang app of the day, this year was all about people. And the message was this: Your technology doesn’t matter if the intended users don’t, won’t or can’t use it.
In this very human-centric approach, the profile of the end-user depends on the product, the user scenario, and the intended outcome. Also, end-users must be recognized up front: Are you trying to reach patients, medical care providers, healthcare organizations, nonprofessional caregivers, hospital administrators, competitive triathletes, etc.?
Once the end-user is identified, then the bigger question begs to be answered: What challenge are you solving for these people, and what will inspire or motivate them to embrace a new technology, system, or tool? How will you woo them and drive the desired behavior?
The answer is both simple and complex: you must provide a positive return on investment (ROI) that is very specific to the users’ perspective and may be measured by more than dollars and cents. In other words, how does your whiz-bang mhealth product makes the user’s life easier, safer, or better?
Many paths to framing ROI for mhealth’s end-users surfaced throughout the mHealth Summit’s sessions. Here are just a few:
- Contextual understanding and use case: Whether you are a surgeon needing to improve the surgical team’s communication processes or an underserved mother seeking ways to better manage her family’s health, you need a product that solves your challenge while fitting into your existing life and workflow as seamlessly as possible. If it requires extra steps, significant training, or new equipment, adoption levels drop.
- User-oriented design and early engagement: Get your user population invested in the solution. Involve them early and often in the product cycle, so you understand their burning needs and challenges. Solve the challenges and make the solution easy for them to pick up and use.
- Information design and health literacy: If your intended user population has an average eighth-grade reading level or English is their second language, thoughtfully design the text, audio, and visual content to give them the actionable information they need in a way that makes sense.
Among the many challenges to solve for mhealth products—patient privacy, data security, product liability, and myriad technical facets—it’s clear the greatest challenge remains the person at the center of it all.
Alexa Konstantinos, MS, is the director of marketing for Battelle’s consumer, industrial and medical business.
[image courtesy of AMBRO/FREEDIGITALPHOTOS.NET]