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Archive for the ‘Ergonomics’ Category

Designing Patient Experience at RSNA14

Posted by Plish on December 1, 2014

Today was my first day at the Annual Radiology Society of North America (RSNA) Meeting.  It’s a great conference to see what’s new in minimally invasive diagnosis and treatment.  What was especially evident was the emphasis on patient experience, on making the healthcare experience less intimidating and more interactive.

These machine wraps and environments from Bear Facts Entertainment make the environment more inviting and less intimidating for children (and this helps put parents at ease!)

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Check out these Star Wars-eque looking MRI imagers from Chinese Company: Magspin Instrument Co

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There are HD screens and vendor displays that deal exclusively with creating beautiful environments, like the works of  Physicist turned artist, Arie vant’ Riet:

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Finding ways to enable radiologists and patients to share images and information across the myriads of health record systems is also integral to giving patients greater control of their healthcare.

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There were also devices like the Medspira Breath Hold  system that help patients interact with the process to better improve the quality of images, or radiation treatments.

Last, but by no means, least, there’s the flare of Fischer-Giotto.  Fischer Medical Technologies conveys the elegant curves and movements of their digital mammography systems through a logo that seems more apropos on Michigan Ave than in a Radiology Conference.WP_20141201_010 (Copy)

It’s clear (Thankfully!!) that the healthcare industry is beginning to recognize that there’s more to

healthcare than just “Take two of these, four times a day, and call me in a week.”


I’ll be bringing you more from RSNA as the week continues! Would love to hear the thoughts of others that attended the conference.

Posted in Arts, children, Customer Focus, Design, Ergonomics, Experience, Healthcare, Medical Devices, The Human Person, Wellness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Going to Work With a KOL? Don’t Forget the Intangibles

Posted by Plish on June 2, 2014

Over the past couple of decades I’ve had the opportunity to work with many Key Opinion Leaders (KOL’s) during the course of developing medical products***.  KOL’s can be a vital part of a product development team.  In my experience, some were a pleasure to work with, others, quite frankly, were a pain.

There’s a good summary on selecting KOL’s here.   It’s not the whole story, but it’s worth checking out.

He mentions some great tips to sift out the KOL’s from the ‘regular’ folks (it’s important to remember that a person doesn’t have to be a physician to be a KOL):

  1. Regularly sought out by their colleagues for opinions or advice
  2. Speak often at regional or national conferences
  3. Have published articles in a major journal during the past two years
  4. Consider themselves early adopters of new treatments or procedures
  5. Help establish protocols for patient care

Also look at:

  1. The Associations to which the key decision makers belong, as well as the Research Groups that they work with
  2. The places they deem to be the key referral Treatment Centers
  3. The Treatment Guidelines/patterns employed by the various physician KOLs, as well as the general protocols that they follow
  4. The Clinical Trials they have participated in

I would add the following that get at the “intangibles”, and may cause you grief:

1. Does the clinician always seem to talk about money and/or royalties?  If so, you may have your hands full.  As I once heard a KOL say, “It’s not about the money, it’s about the money.”

2. Is the KOL talking about other ventures, or possibly products he/she wants to develop?  This could create friction about product concepts being developed in the future. There could also be ulterior motives to working with you.

3. Is the KOL personable?  Does he/she get along with people?  There’s enough stress in a product development process without a KOL adding more.

4. Does the KOL act like part of the team or like someone hired for an opinion? Even though laws seem to push you towards the latter, you want the former.  The latter knows and often acts like he/she is being paid for opinions.  That’s not necessarily a good thing.  See #5.

5.  Make sure time commitments are spelled out and understood by all parties involved.  Yes, KOL’s have their practices, but if they are truly committed to improving healthcare, they’ll understand that getting a new product to market is not clean-cut and predictable.  Everyone is short on time.

6. Because KOL’s are usually well published, they are great resources for helping to understand strategic landscapes.   That can often be more important to overall success than input on specific product attributes.

7. There are ethical and legal ramifications of using medical doctors as part of a product development process.  Be diligent about following the law.  You don’t need those types of stresses in your life.

With regards to KOL’s in general, it’s important to realize that designing a product based solely on KOL input is generally not a good idea.

Yes, a KOL may do 1000 procedures a year, but that person won’t use a product the same way as someone who does a 100 procedures, or for that matter, 10 procedures.   The majority of people who will use your products are not KOL’s.  Most KOL’s work at prestigious institutions and have resources available to them that most people don’t.  It’s important to know what the non-KOL’s have available to them.  If you design something to accommodate the majority, odds are it’ll work for the KOL.

Remember too that KOL’s are often laser sharp in their focus.  If they are great surgeons, don’t ask them about something that a surgical tech is doing during the procedure.  Ask the tech.

Better yet, don’t just ask.


Observe what is going on before, during, and after the time when a product is being used.  Don’t just trust what people say they do.  People (even KOL’s!) often think they are performing an action, and even will tell you they are doing it if you ask them afterwards.  If you watch them, they may never do it or do it in a different manner.

Working with KOL’s can be exciting and insightful for all involved parties.  Keep these points in mind and it won’t be a drag on time, money and patience.

I’d love to hear your experiences with KOL’s.

***While this is written specifically for medical product development, these guidelines can apply to other industries.

Posted in Customer Focus, Design, Ergonomics, Healthcare, innovation, Medical Devices | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

8 Tips on Creating Innovative and Engaging Products/Services

Posted by Plish on October 17, 2011

Was reading this article over at Writer’s Digest about how to start a chapter in an engaging manner.  The similarities between writing a story and designing an engaging product or service were striking.  (Note: When using the word ‘product’ this also includes services) Here are 8 tips for creating products that are innovative and engaging which is always a winning combination.

1. GET STRAIGHT TO THE ACTION. Your product should enable someone to initiate use and interaction with very little to-do.

2. HOOK WITH SURPRISING (INTER)ACTIONS. Make something memorable.  We often equate surprise with volume.  Beauty, intuitiveness, simplicity are often just as, if not more, surprising.


4. ACT FIRST, THINK LATER. A product should be intuitive, one shouldn’t have to think about it.  If a task requires deep thinking, see #5.

5. COMMUNICATE NECESSARY INFORMATION BEFORE INTERACTION KICKS IN. Sometimes instructions need to be provided.  That’s okay.  But, make sure that the instructions are not viewed as optional.  Instructions/directions should invite interaction and understanding.


7. FULLY ENGAGE WITH SPECIFIC VISUAL DETAILS. Emphasis on “FULLY,” but it’s about more than the product visuals. It extends to the packaging and the sales and use environments (to the extent these can be controlled.)

8. REFLECT THE CHARACTER OF THE PRODUCT AND INTENDED FEELINGS THROUGH PACKAGING. Is the packaging consistent with the experience?  How about how it’s presented?  What is the environment that the product will be sold in?  Is it consistent with the overall intended experience?

What would you add?

Posted in Customer Focus, Design, Emotions, Ergonomics, Experience, innovation, The Senses | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Small Changes in Design Can Positively Impact Customer Experience – Thoughts After the Storm…

Posted by Plish on July 16, 2011

I don’t know what chord the wind was playing, I only know it wasn’t that “shoosh’ sound that a breeze, even a strong one, makes.  The haunting drone of 75+mph winds was punctuated by the snapping sounds of tree trunks and shuddering thuds as 30 foot  tree  segments slammed onto, or rather, bounced off the roof and then landed in front of the window. The lake, usually filled with whitecaps during storms, instead was flattened and swirling, looking as if it were going to part.  Given the apocalyptic combination of noise and wind, it wouldn’t have surprised us to see ghost’s of Pharoah’s army riding on chariots through the waters.

The onslaught lasted only minutes while we frantically grabbed cats, flashlights, phones and water and tunneled into the closet in the center of the house.

Winds subsided and water started dripping through the bedroom ceiling…

As if the entire block was cued by an off-stage director, people walked out of their homes and into the street, drizzle falling and cracks of lightning still flashing in the distance.  One by one we evaluated each other’s property and looked at the damage. Maple trees that have faced battles for over 50 years lost this one.  Trunks over a foot in diameter snapped and splintered. Our fascia was ripped off in one place, a tree branch pierced into the attic in another, and a dent in a ridge turned out to be a broken beam.  Small holes randomly pocked the shingles.  Shattered trunk lay on top of bushes and small trees.  Their forced bends seem to be screaming, “Get off my back!”

The lack of power and the holes in the roof are main concerns.  Those will get patched by roofers that were kind enough to end their gruellingly long day with a trip to our house to seal them off.  The power?  We had that covered with a generator, albeit 24 hours after the power was lost. 

I prepared the generator for its run.  I took a quart of oil and tried to verify how much oil would be needed.  The instructions said .6 liters.  I looked on the side of the plastic bottle to see if I could gauge how much to pour. 

Sweaty, with a headlamp on my head and mosquitoes beginning their evening feast, I looked in disbelief.  The bottle is filled with 1.419 liters of oil.

Seriously – four significant digits? (This is actually 48 ounces but I’m not about to convert .6 liters to ounces)

The markings on the container start with 1.3 and go down in 0.1 liter increments.  So, as if the situation isn’t bad enough, I now have to actually think.  I subtract .6 from 1.417, that’s 0.817.  I begin pouring.  Nope, not enough…pour more…I’m close…pour again…too much…augh, oil is dripping out of the fill port.  I pour some oil out and recheck…I add more again….perfect.  

Add gasoline, flip switches, pull cable, it starts.  We have power to fridge, freezer and a fan. 

I look at the oil slick on the concrete and do damage control to keep it out of the grass and flower bed.

I look again at the bottle.


As I listen to the generator humming in the darkness and mosquitoes in my ears, it strikes me how the simplest products can be made so much more helpful with a minimum amount of effort.  All it takes is a little empathy and understanding.  The manufacturer provided a clear stripe of plastic and gradation marks so that the contents could be measured as it was dispensed.   It wouldn’t have been any more difficult to reverse the sequence of the numbers so that they could actually be useful to the pourer.

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Click for Full Size

Posted in Customer Focus, Design, Ergonomics, Experience, innovation | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

When Designers Don’t Really Pay Attention to the Customer – A Case Study of a Humidifier

Posted by Plish on December 15, 2010

I recently bought a Sunbeam room humidifier.  Over all I like it’s look and the various displays.  Then I went to fill up the tank… 

I exaggerated slightly to make my point, but  I think you can see what the problem is.  The fill hole for the tank is placed away from the edges.  As a result, I can’t set the tank down in the tub as it’s filling.  (I can, but 50+% of the water splashes off and goes down the drain.) Instead, I have to hold the tank at an uncomfortable angle while it’s filling and getting heavier.  On top of that, it’s hard to know if I’ve filled it enough since everything is tipped.

Before I got too angry, I looked at the instruction booklet to see what they recommended and  it clearly said the tank could be refilled in  the sink or tub.    Now, to be fair, I did check to see if it fit in my kitchen sink and it did – barely.    But, sinks often have things in them and they don’t deliver a good volume of water – it takes forever to fill up a tank.  

 Tubs, on the other hand,  give nice large volumes of water.   Without doing a study, I couldn’t say that more people use the tub than the sink, but I’d be willing to bet they do.

So what does this all mean?

It probably means that the designers of this product didn’t take the time to actually watch people in their homes filling their humidifiers.   If they did, they would have noticed the contortioning that people do while filling up their humidifier tanks.  To be fair, maybe this was done on purpose so that  people wouldn’t overfill the tanks.  Or, maybe they didn’t go to people’s homes because they measured 100 different faucets and designed for the average and it turns out that mine is an outlier – 99% of all faucets fit but mine doesn’t.  

Regardless, this all comes down to the simple question,

“Why does this even have to happen?” 

Moving the fill hole an inch closer to the closest straight edge would enable this to be used in all types of tubs. 

People could just walk into the bathroom, plunk the tank down, watch the water gush through the hole with minimal splashing (and thus not require major wiping afterwards), turn off the water, screw the lid on and pick up the tank.  It would’ve made for a simple, stress free, tank filling process. 

Is the current situation a huge dealbreaker?  Probably not.  I already bought it and it’s not worth taking it back to the store.  But, in the end, if someone asks me about a room humidifier, while I’d probably still recommend this model, I would share the info on filling because it’s an inconvenience and mess that I’d want to be upfront about.  It’s a shame really because it wouldn’t have taken much to make this product rock solid…

It’s a simple lesson really:   A better customer experience doesn’t necessarily come from flashy numbers, cool dials, smooth, beautiful lines.    Sometimes it comes from just paying attention to what the customer does.

Posted in Case Studies, Customer Focus, Design, Ergonomics, Market Assessment, Research | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Power of Words Over Images – A Lesson From a Bad Design

Posted by Plish on October 3, 2010

I know it’s easier to criticize bad design than to compliment good design but sometimes a bad design screams for recognition. 

The other day I needed some color copies for a lunch meeting so I got up early, and with bleary eyes, trekked over to Kinko’s.  The copy was on the light side and I needed to darken it up.  I was getting frustrated because I kept adjusting the image quality and my copies weren’t getting any darker. Take a few seconds to look at the image of the touchscreen below and see if you can see what the problem was.

Yup, it’s the Lighten/Darken terminology on the screen.  The problem is that the word ‘lighten’ corresponds with darker bands and ‘darken’ with lighter bands.   Sure if I only looked at the bands I would have realized that moving the slider towards the ‘darken’ side would actually make the copy lighter but I didn’t.  It was early, I was in a hurry and I trusted the words on the screen to describe exactly what hitting the arrows would do: lighten and darken.  I kept hitting the arrow on the right and my copies weren’t getting any darker. I seriously thought there was a bug in the software.

Words are important.  Eye-tracking studies of websites showed that people go to text first then to images.  When looking for instructions on a touchscreen, words are used to guide users to the section of the screen where programming changes can be made.  But, in this case, the words confused the matter.

The bottom line is, don’t underestimate the power of words – after all, you’ve read them in spite of the arrow pointing up at the top of this entry.

Posted in Case Studies, Customer Focus, Design, Ergonomics, problem solving, User Interface | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Fly Me To The Moon, Baby!

Posted by Plish on November 20, 2008

Sometimes we think there is no way to improve on a technology, no way to to make it more human, more beautiful, more zen.  Sometimes it seems like there is an impenetrable wall to advancement.  Today’s case study shows otherwise.

Duck Young Kong's, "Lunar Baby Thermometer"

The Lunar Baby Thermometer

This wonderful, ergonomic, new forehead thermometer just SCREAMS human touch! Designed by Duck Young Kong, this design is simple, elegant and just plain cool.  It is almost like there isn’t a thermometer there and yet the person takes the temperature and touches the patient in a loving manner.

The exercise in creativity for today?  Find something commonplace and redesign it.  There’s always room for improvement.

Posted in Case Studies, Creative Thinking Techniques, Design, Ergonomics, innovation, problem solving, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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