6 Ways to Create Stellar Consumer Health Products That Improve Quality of Life
Consumer health products are simple, affordable home use medical devices. These devices often include helpful features that are tied to a service.
For instance, products like the Ellume COVID-19 Home Test are transforming healthcare by migrating functional care from the hospital and the doctor’s office into the patient’s home. On December 15, 2020, the FDA issued emergency use authorization for this over-the-counter test that consists of a disposable device that plugs into your phone. The device uses an app to make a diagnosis. It then automatically sends the results to a physician or public safety database.
Vessel Health’s in-home wellness tracker is another good example of an innovative product that allows its users to understand their health — all from the convenience of their homes. After providing a urine sample on a test card, a person can scan the card with their mobile app. The app will instantly and accurately detect nutritional information for that particular person. In this way, Vessel Health aims to be “a team of nutritionists and doctors in your pocket, to help you feel better.”
Right now, whole new technology-driven product categories are being born. What can your company do to profit from this trend? Learn where to look for the next new business opportunity and the hallmarks that define a winning consumer health product.
What Does the FDA Consider a Home Use Device?
To properly capitalize on the consumer health products trend, you must first understand the device categories the FDA considers home use.
According to the FDA, consumer health products include home use medical devices that are intended for users in any environment outside of a professional healthcare facility. This includes devices for use in both professional healthcare facilities and homes.
- A user is a patient (care recipient), caregiver, or family member who directly uses the device or provides assistance in using the device.
- A qualified healthcare professional is a licensed or non-licensed healthcare professional with proficient skill and experience with the use of the device so they can aid or train care recipients and caregivers to use and maintain the device.
Categories of Home Use Devices
Home use medical devices fall into one of two categories: those that require a prescription and those that do not. For instance, sleep apnea devices, oxygen concentrators, and blood glucose monitors are types of products that need to be prescribed by a doctor.
Conversely, blood pressure monitors and all the other products you see on the shelves at drugstores don’t require a prescription. The FDA designates these products or drugs as over-the-counter (OTC).
Designing for the Consumer
Regardless of whether a prescription is needed or not, developing effective solutions begins with a study of your customers’ personal needs. After all, great products are based on thorough user research and user feedback that occurs throughout the design process.
If you are entering the market for home use devices, you need to analyze your customers’ behaviors, motivations, and goals. Their motivations as well as their day-to-day tasks will be different from that of a healthcare professional. Healthcare professionals follow a defined standard of care with established workflows and procedures. They may even adhere to checklists.
Consumer behavior, on the other hand, is less predictable than that of healthcare professionals. Everyday consumers may be using your device in varied environments outside of their doctors’ offices. They want extra support in improving their quality of life.
In a competitive market where differentiation and customer adoption lead to more profitable sales, designing for your customers’ experiences — wherever they are — will be the key to your success.
6 Ways to Optimize the Customer Experience of Home Use Medical Products
1. Offer Peace of Mind
People want to feel confident the medical device they use at home is safe, reliable, and effective. They want a product that puts them at ease.
When people are sick, they face a whole range of emotions from fear to suffering. Even the thought of going to the emergency room can make them feel physically sick. These emotions are not isolated to just the sick person. A parent with a child who is writhing in pain at 3 a.m. faces a stressful experience that can quickly become emotional. Questions arise: “What’s happening? What’s wrong? How serious is it?”
People address their fears of sickness in many ways. Some wait and hope the pain resolves itself. Others call a physician for advice, trying to get a diagnosis over the phone. And some head to the local ER. These days, perhaps they turn to a home use product for answers.
You should consider your customer’s emotional journey in such a scenario. A good product should be functional and reliable in these stressful moments. A great product — home use included —- can also offer reassurance and peace of mind when it’s needed most.
One way to analyze your customers’ emotions is to prepare a user journey map. You can use this map to help you visualize your customer’s experience in a given situation. You can also use it to identify moments in that journey where your product can solve a problem, alleviate a stressor, or provide assurance. The result is a product that is designed to solve actual user problems and needs at the right place and the right time.
Do you have a user experience strategy in place to understand how to design for actual customers? You must answer “yes” to succeed.
2. Give Around-the-Clock Care
Accessibility to healthcare is an important consideration in our rapidly evolving healthcare market. Companies need to consider when and how people access healthcare.
There are many factors that can impede access to care. This includes location, age, culture, cost, and special needs of the population. People may need healthcare access when it is least convenient. They may need help in the middle of the night or while on vacation outside of their home country.
For example, there are already hundreds if not thousands of products and apps that enable easy access to physicians — usually on a pay-per-use or subscription basis. One such app, Doctor On Demand, boasts 24/7/365 live access to a doctor, including video calls from a smartphone.
Simplifying access, eliminating obstacles, and tailoring a solution that offers unobstructed healthcare access will increase the usefulness and subsequent sales of your medical device or app. In fact, this is already table stakes for home use products.
Are you doing everything you can to reduce obstacles and simplify access to healthcare? If not, your company should explore how to develop accessible products.
3. Provide Added Convenience
Seeing a doctor anytime promotes access to healthcare as an added convenience. But there are additional ways to be available to your customers.
Today’s busy population expects technology to simplify their lives, which gives them more time for the things they love to do. It’s human nature to choose the path of least resistance — or the simplest way from point A to point B. Your medical device should do all it can to save people time. After all, time is everyone’s most valuable asset.
In that vein, why should a diagnosis involve three — if any — trips?
A trip to the doctor
A lab test
A follow-up with the doctor to interpret the results
It’s excessive. Which is why it’s often avoided.
Is there a way your new consumer health product, or a product bundled with a service(s), can be a “one-stop shop” instead?
Start by understanding your customer base. This goal is tied into the simple imperative of developing a better quality product. When you focus on improving the user experience of your products, you allow yourself to challenge your assumptions about how consumers currently leverage a device.
By interviewing customers or testing your product with them, you may find insights that truly reflect how they use it. That is why usability testing is an important part of validating a design. When you test with users of your product, you may find unintended uses and workarounds. By collecting this data, you can develop real solutions that improve usability and convenience for your end users. This may lead to new features and services that add efficiency to your customers’ routines and overall lifestyles.
Are you testing features that would add value and convenience for your customers, especially those at home or on the go? If so, you’re on the path to a well-designed product.
4. Promote Stronger, More Consistent Patient Engagement
“Out of sight out of mind” describes the way many people view their health. If you don’t feel sick, you aren’t sick, right? We all know that’s not quite true — but it’s a fundamental way of thinking for many of us.
Getting people to consistently take medication, engage in therapy, or continue with treatment is at least a $100 billion dollar problem in the U.S. alone. Therefore, your development team should find ways to engage patients in their treatment plans.
Patients increasingly want to be in the driver’s seat. It gives them a sense of control over their lives. There are many ways to involve patients in their treatment plans. And allowing the patient to choose how and when to be involved gives them control in a way that living with a sickness does not.
A patient’s engagement with their health provider does not begin and end with your product. Still, a user interface that’s easy to use and addresses a patient’s desire for autonomy and independence can enhance engagement. This type of empathy for the patient — acknowledging that patients ultimately hold the consequences to their decisions — is an important insight. Your product should not annoy or frustrate these patient needs. Rather, it should empower patients to engage in their treatment.
Your development team should focus on designing an experience with your product that leaves customers saying, “I just don’t know how I ever lived without this!” Understanding how to increase patient engagement starts by learning about them and designing for their psychological needs.
Ultimately, designing something that helps give patients a sense of control and forges an emotional connection can determine your consumer health product’s success.
5. Ensure Continuity of Care
There is a good chance your grandparents went to the same doctor most of their lives. They committed to that one doctor who had a hanging file folder with their name on it that contained all their medical records. For that doctor, scanning a person’s medical history and making a diagnosis was part of the typical patient journey.
Now, it is not unusual for someone with a chronic disease to see different specialists from multiple institutions in many different locations. And it is crucial for their healthcare records to be accurate, updated, and accessible.
However, the modern healthcare system has become more complex and fragmented. The industry, reeling from a technology hangover, is trying to catch up to the rules related to patient record retention and safekeeping.
A medical device company’s responsibility now extends beyond developing a safe and effective product. Enabling storage and access to patient data on HIPAA-compliant servers is equally important.
When a physician or patient opens a virtual medical record, will the results from your device or service be waiting for them? And, even more importantly, will the user interface display the information in a way that’s meaningful, easy to understand, and actionable?
6. Allow Remote Monitoring
Some patients want to regularly monitor their symptoms or conditions after a diagnosis has been made. Some technologies allow physicians to remotely monitor, compare results, and check a patient’s progress. Technologies range from simple blood pressure monitoring to manipulating an ultrasound imaging device remotely with a doctor in real time — both home use options.
Remote monitoring isn’t a replacement for initial in-person diagnosis by a doctor. However, it could be a breakthrough for certain companies with existing products. You should consider adding connectivity and monitoring capacities to any home use products. The key is to use technology to establish a baseline and make comparisons with regular frequency.
For instance, SkinVision is a mobile app that allows you to “understand your risk factors for melanoma skin cancer and keep track of your moles … and monitor them over time.”
Ideas like this can come as a result of using conceptual product design techniques to explore all the “what if” scenarios for your product.
This is just the beginning of a trend allowing patients to become more proactive in their health from home. Have you thought of any innovative ways to leverage technology to help them do so? It’s time to design for remote care.
Go Beyond Bells & Whistles
There you have it — six ways to build greater value into your consumer health product. Improve your chances of success by strategizing for a better user experience.
Ultimately, adding bells and whistles to your product is not enough. For your product to resonate with consumers, it’s imperative you focus your design and development efforts on easily recognizable quality-of-life enhancements.