Dogtown Media CEO Discusses Medical Device Digital Design Strategy at MD&M West 2019

February 12, 2019 - 10 minutes read

In 2019, digital healthcare technology is projected to grow 30% and surpass $25 billion. As more patients, providers, and payers turn to healthcare app development for innovative solutions to longstanding obstacles, design is becoming more important than ever before. No other aspect plays more of an integral role in shaping patient experiences.

At the Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) West Conference this year, Marc Fischer, CEO of Dogtown Media, one of the top medical software development companies, discussed the vital function of design in medical devices. He also delved into how organizations can utilize design to cultivate interactions that both engage users and enhance medical device functionality.

What Makes a Design Great?

At its fundamental core, Marc emphasizes that design is the art of problem-solving. From a user experience (UX) perspective, design helps users do what they want more easily when interacting with your product.

Good design can be obvious at times. But great design is transparent. It’s running behind the scenes and is often something end-users can appreciate without being aware of it. But it keeps you wanting more.

medical app development

Great design operates at the intersection of art and technology. Part of why you don’t realize it at first is because it’s so dependable. Let’s look at the Apple Watch, for example. Cleared by the FDA as a medical device now, the Apple Watch functions just like you’d expect a smartwatch to at a surface level.

But underneath, it offers much more in terms of medical abilities. When you’re using it, the Apple Watch can intentionally track your vitals passively without any input required from you. When your health starts to trend downwards, algorithms and actionable alerts give you early warning signs to take proper precaution or intervention.

The San Francisco Bay Area-based company managed to integrate these capabilities into its watch without compromising on form factor and overall functionality. You don’t even realize it’s monitoring and protecting your health until you need to know about it. Otherwise, you can use it just as you regularly would. This functionality is a fundamental pillar of great design. Let’s go over those right now.

Great Design Is Thoughtful

When it comes to design, pleasant experiences make everything work better. Truly great design fosters these experiences by being thoughtful. It gives you a clear understanding of your user’s behaviors, limitations, and motivations—and puts them first.

medical app development

Designers are really advocates for users. In the case of medical devices, it’s important for designers to deeply think about how people engage with them. For example, if you’re building a smart cane for senior citizens, the digital experience must match. Your app should have large print, large buttons, be easily accessible, and should, of course, be simple to use.

Great Design Is Functional

Besides being simple to use, great design is also intentional and balanced. It should be relevant in the way it solves a user’s problems and do so in as few steps as possible.

Great Design Connects Emotionally

Great design creates feelings that connect users to the digital experience. This is the prime way to establish your organization as one that your users can trust and depend upon.

When someone downloads your digital product (let’s say it’s an app), you only have a few seconds to make a lasting impression. After a few seconds, the human mind evaluates it and decides whether it’s worth their time or not. An emotional connection often makes the difference between those two choices.

Why Is Design Important?

The healthcare industry is incredibly massive—in the U.S. alone, it comprises $3.5 trillion of GDP spending. That comes out to about $11,000 per person per year. And this is only increasing.

Unfortunately, bad design is still prevalent in the field. And it can have disastrous unintended consequences. Because it’s unintuitive and often makes even simple tasks more difficult, it ends up making our lives harder. This leads to confusion, anger, and users abandoning the product. In the case of some devices, it can even result in the harm of your users.

medical app development

Digital design is the focal point of creating impactful, positive, lasting experiences. This becomes readily apparent when examining the effect it has on a business’s bottom line. Every $1 spent on UX research creates between $2 to $100 in returns. How much you get back exactly is determined by how great (or not so great) your UX ends up being.

How to Create Design That Delights

Near the end of his talk, Marc broke down the path designers should take to make something great. And it all begins with research.

The risk associated with digital health products is sky-high. A misdiagnosis can lead to serious health hazards and legal liabilities. Design research not only helps you improve the form factors and experience of your device; it could also end up saving a life.

This is why Marc highly recommends that you take some time to get to know your target audience: “One of the most important things you can do is to ‘walk a mile in someone’s shoes’.” In UX research, this is known as creating personas for the people you’re building your product for. Figuring out factors like age range, income level, technical fluency, behaviors, and motivations guide your design toward success.

Next, you need to hone in on exactly what you’re creating. What problem are you really solving with this design? What does the user need to understand at each step? Why do people need this at all? Answering these questions and connecting them to your business goals helps to align your team and move forward on meaningful progress.

medical app development

Once you’ve done your due diligence, it’s time to put your assumptions to the test. Whether through sketches or wireframes, you need to envision how users will move through the experience you’ve created. Identify and label each aspect as well as what it contributes to the bigger picture.

After some refinement, prototype your solution and get it in front of sample users. This is the most insightful way to figure out what’s working and what needs to change. Watch your users as they engage with your product. Ask them for feedback. Then go back to the drawing board and reiterate until you get it right.

This can feel like an arduous process at times. But it’s the quickest, simplest, and most cost-effective way to eliminate risk before going to market.

Data Is Key to Designing for Connected Devices

Digital experiences are both visual and tactile. The connection between these two senses must be seamless. And maintaining an experience that involves both is key to engagement.

On the other hand, medical devices are all about utility. Toolsets that enable patients and physicians to perform medical tasks more efficiently are the ones that thrive.

medical app development

To gauge how your digital experience and medical device are working together, pay attention to the data flow. Data is the most important factor at play here. Modern medical ecosystems require digital tools that can collect data, share it, and let users act upon it quickly and effectively.

Whether it is medication adherence, remote patient monitoring, or EHR interoperability, design choices play a crucial function in shaping the user experience. By letting these fundamentals and the data flow guide your design, you can create interactions that lead to better outcomes for all stakeholders involved.

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