The use of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets is increasing in popularity every day. Within the medical industry, health care professionals (HCPs) are progressively adopting mobile devices, using medical apps and incorporating them into their practice to help facilitate patient care. Patients and caregivers are also taking much more control and responsibility over their own health and wellness by tracking and monitoring all facets of their health.
The FDA’s Interest
Against this backdrop of increased usage is an FDA that seems to be including usability factors in its approval processes. Two recent developments have led us to this conclusion:
- In July the FDA gave a presentation about Human Factors Considerations for Battery-Powered Medical Devices (BPMD)
- In August the FDA released final guidance on Radio Frequency Wireless Technology in Medical Devices – Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff. This guidance makes it clear that information and labeling on devices must be adequate for use.
Since “mobile medical apps” as defined by the FDA often use wireless technology to communicate health data, they would be affected by these guidances.
From a healthcare standpoint, it is of utmost importance that mobile medical applications do not inadvertently cause “use error”, potentially exposing the end user to harm due to a poorly designed user interface (UI). Consequently, we have a duty and responsibility to ensure that the UI design not only reduces the risk of “use error” that may result in a dangerous situation, but also goes above and beyond by crafting an effective, efficient, and compelling user experience (UX).
How Do We Build A Great User Experience?
UX is about identifying with your target audience, and taking into account the human factors. It’s about user empathy. It’s about taking a user-centric approach to designing that aims at creating intuitive, usable, and valuable end products for the user while ensuring that the business goals and objectives are met.
There are many human factors that come into play when designing the overall user experience for any mobile application. These may include factors such as visual, tactile, and/or cognitive aspects, training, and user expectations to name a few. In order to craft and build a compelling user experience, there are several key questions that must be answered:
Define Your App’s Goals
What is the goal and objective of the app (must be measureable)? Why are you building this app? Who is the intended audience? Why will people use your app?
Establish the App’s Structure and Navigation
Identify how you want the mobile app content to be organized, and create a navigational site map. How will users use the app? How will they get from one place to another? How do you prevent them from getting lost?
Define the User Experience
What are the intended user tasks? Can a user complete the task quickly and efficiently? Does the UI design and workflow prevent “use errors” from occurring? If they do occur, can users recover quickly? Does your app require training or is it intuitive? How do your users feel after completing the intended tasks? Will they continue to use the app?
Create the UI Design
Start by sketching the visual design by taking the app’s structure and mapping the layout. At Klick Health, there are many tools and techniques that we utilize to solve the user experience challenge. Wireframing, prototyping, and usability testing are all excellent UX techniques that help us to define the user interactions and validate our design decisions.
Strong UI Design Helps Reduce “Use Error”
Prototyping is a highly valuable UX technique that helps to provide a clear vision of the interface and the user interactions, particularly when designing a mobile medical app. Some of the key benefits to prototyping are:
- Effectively communicates functionality to both client and developers by demonstrating what the app is supposed to do, which removes any ambiguity or user interpretation.
- Can quickly address any issues early, which allows the team to iterate and make any adjustments, thereby solidifying the final solution.
- Prototypes can be created and modified relatively quickly, which helps to reduce costs due to the potential for misinterpretation or any missing features.
Usability testing is another UX technique that is very effective at providing valuable insights into how a real user would use your app, and helps to identify any areas of potential “use error” and user confusion. Testing can be perform both remotely, or in-person, where both options allow you to observe users and their overall user experience. (Learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of remote usability testing.)
By taking a user-centric approach when designing your mobile medical app, and utilizing the appropriate tools and techniques such as prototyping and usability testing, you will be laying down the necessary foundation to address, manage, and reduce the possibility for “use error”.