Medical product development must incorporate an understanding of users and how they interact with devices and instruments. User research provides this understanding.
Having an understanding of human perception and cognition enables us to enhance the usability and intuitiveness of the devices we design. Still, every design project brings its own unique set of problems. User research will often reveal surprises that challenge what we think we know about the users. It’s critical to understand how users react to the specific device being designed. But user research requires sophistication in interpreting the results. A single vocal user can skew the impression of the entire effort, so sample selection, the way questions are asked, and even the types of models used can greatly affect the results.
Depending on the needs of the project, we conduct user research at various points in the medical product development process. Sometimes research will be conducted up front if there is an existing product that can be tested, or if we are conducting research about a general topic, such as surgical closures. At other times, we will conduct user research with prototype designs. We then use the knowledge we gain from our research to validate the design or make improvements if necessary, or to help our clients choose from several alternatives.
We can employ many different methods to gain knowledge about users. Techniques are customized based on the needs of each project. Studies can range in scope from a small sample done locally to studies at multiple sites throughout the U.S. and internationally. Focus groups, dyads, one-on-one interviews — all these are methods that can shed light on the needs of the users, the ultimate driving factor in creating a successful product.