Even just five years ago, it would have been hard to imagine mentioning YouTube, TikTok and social media in the same breath as Point of Care (POC) diagnostics solutions. But this topic was prominent when Invetech recently led a discussion with Dr. Paul Gargan, co-founder and COO at Prominex and Dr. Kfir Oved, co-founder, chairman, and former CTO at MeMed.
Times are changing and users expect a better experience from POC products. And just as the pandemic forced a rapid shift toward where products are being used — from people’s homes to parking lots to clinical settings — it has also shifted our focus to the need for products that are simple to use, intuitively designed and work in multiple settings. The POC user doesn’t want a lab instrument.
In this article, we discuss four themes around usability for POC diagnostic products and important considerations for designing an intuitive product experience.
1. The simpler the device, the harder it is to build
“A really simple device needs to be very, very complex from the inside—at [both] the software level, [and] at the hardware level,” said Dr. Oved.
To achieve true simplicity for the user, the product needs to do a lot of heavy lifting in terms of calibration, error detection, results transmission, and sample management, for example. To design an easy-to-use product on the outside, the inside needs to have sophisticated and superior technology to not only generate the diagnostics, but also the intelligence to reduce the effort and follow-up for the user.
2. Early field testing helps devices fit into workflows
Perhaps a hard lesson for product developers is, “the user couldn’t care less about how the device is working,” said Dr. Oved. “What the user really cares about is how easy the workflow is. How does the device fit its workflow? How does the device fit the different use cases and the different environments it needs to serve?”
One way to design a user-friendly product experience is to move usability testing earlier in product development. Often, usability studies are performed relatively late in the process, but Dr. Oved recommends, “Go out to the field with paper models and simulate the workflow you’re about to do, you’re going to learn a lot!”
Asking questions and observing users in the field while designing the product will help you get a clearer picture of what users actually need.
“Whatever you think people wouldn’t do, they’ll do it,” added Dr. Gargan. “Obviously once they’re trained, it’s relatively straightforward. But we were really surprised.”
3. Users want and expect easy-to-use devices
Growing up on smartphones and other intuitive consumer electronics devices, users expect POC diagnostic products to be just as easy to use. Today’s users, raised on YouTube and addicted to TikTok, “are used to seeing video,” Dr. Gargan said. “The younger generations don’t want to read a product insert printed out. Everything has to be visual.”
Users spend hours on their mobile devices each day and are used to a well-designed interface. They don’t want to see “dinosaurs with non-friendly interfaces when they get into the lab,” Dr. Oved said. Your product needs to perform the role it’s designed for, and it needs to be clinically accurate. But it should also be “an amazingly beautiful, usable, and appealing product that will provide a really great user experience,” he said.
4. Design your device to fit each workflow.
Even if you’re designing for one specific setting, like an emergency room, each application has a slightly different workflow. It’s important to “cover all of them with your device,” says Dr. Oved.
“You need to make sure that it’s actually suitable for these different workflows.”
Dr. Gargan agreed. He said even something that seems simple and straightforward, like using a pipette, would have different outcomes depending on the user. Training helps establish correct usage, but rethinking the design of the product to accommodate different users and settings will help to reduce errors and increase the product’s usability in more settings. “You have to think clearly … about how to navigate the end-user through the use of your product,” he said.
A great POC diagnostics product needs to be intuitive and simple to use. This requires a lot of testing and field learning. Dr. Gargan was clear on the priority. “Spend a lot of time understanding the end user. And make sure you take that information and design it back into your product.”