Want to Create the Most User-Friendly Medical Device? You Need Benchmarking

 In Design Strategy, Medical Product Design, User Insights & Design Research

Whether you’re developing a new medical device or updating an existing one, you already know that your success hinges on your product’s user experience. A well-designed, user-friendly device can separate you from the competition and drive brand loyalty.

When you hear “user experience,” your mind probably jumps immediately to user testing. While that’s a major piece of the puzzle, there’s another usability jump-starter that really ought to come first: benchmarking.

Benchmarking plays a crucial role in achieving your usability goals. By taking the pulse of your most closely related competitive products, you can identify common UX pain points and set intentional usability and performance objectives for your medical device.

Here’s what you need to know to get started.

Why Should You Perform Benchmarking on Your Medical Device?

You may be wondering whether you really need to invest in a formal benchmarking process. After all, you probably already know quite a bit about your main competitors and their products. But the reality is that the breadth and depth of the “intel” you can gather from benchmarking is sure to exceed even the most robust anecdotal information. Whether you do it internally or work with an external development partner like MindFlow, formal benchmarking sets your medical device development team in the right direction from the beginning.

If you want to design the best possible UX for your product, then your benchmarking process must take stock of the full user experience journey. Keep in mind that your medical device’s user experience isn’t limited to its core functions. Rather, it encompasses every aspect of a user’s interaction from ordering and setup to clinical use.

As a result, your benchmarking assessments should include as many of the following components as possible:

  • Any manufacturer training that is provided as a matter of course

  • Out-of-the-box experience (OOBE), or how your customers receive your product, from delivery to unpackaging and initial setup

  • Quick Reference Instructions (QRI) materials, such as packaging, setup guides, instructions for use (IFU), and user manuals

  • The process of performing tasks and getting results

  • Calls to technical or customer support to gather additional information or resolve issues

The Benefits of Benchmarking

Benchmarking is key to designing the right product — one that meets and even exceeds your users’ needs. In particular, it sets the stage for a product or system that:

  • Fits seamlessly in the user’s world, not just an engineering lab.

  • Boasts a comprehensive, consistent user experience (UX).

  • Is flexible and efficient.

  • Guides users through workflows using recognition rather than recall (that is, users can intuit what happens next without having to constantly consult a manual).

  • Allows multiple users with different needs and abilities to easily interact with it.

  • Uses excellent design to make errors less likely.

  • Possesses meaningful (rather than decorative) aesthetics without distracting visual clutter.

  • Includes user-friendly documentation that anticipates and matches users’ needs.

The Four Benchmarking Techniques You Can’t Afford to Skip

Benchmarking can take many forms. In general, when MPE (Formerly Mindflow) takes the lead in a client’s benchmarking efforts, we include the following four benchmarking techniques. Taken together, they provide a holistic view of your medical device’s competitive landscape — and offer the keys to an improved user experience.

1. Analysis of Customer Reviews

An analysis of customer reviews is exactly what it sounds like: A comprehensive review of all the available online or written reviews. One that looks not only at reviews of your own product, but those of your competitors’ products, too. This analysis represents benchmarking’s lowest hanging fruit. It allows your team to quickly cast a wide net and gather a broad view of perspectives. The goal? To compare specs and identify patterns that reveal user experience wins and pain points.

It’s important to note that in certain situations — such as when you can’t gain access to your competitors’ products — online benchmarking is sometimes the only available benchmarking technique.

2. Expert Benchmarking Review

MindFlow’s expert review consists of a hands-on, cross-disciplinary assessment of your medical device and its competitive products by our cross-disciplinary team of specialists. This includes professionals from our engineering, design, and business teams as well as any relevant subject-matter experts, such as human factors experts and medical professionals.

Each specialist leverages their respective expertise in their heuristic review of the products or solutions, from un-packaging and setup to use. As they go through this rigorous process, each expert identifies issues through the lens of their unique discipline. For example, an engineer might discover a mechanical pain point related to a particular workflow, while a design expert performing the same task might identify a consistency issue.

Over the course of the expert review, we identify what is and isn’t working in your own product or system, as well as that of your competitors. The result is a hit list of opportunities to innovate and improve your product UX.

3. Comparative Usability Review

This hands-on benchmarking review looks a lot like formative usability testing in that it’s all about observing users in their environment as they interact with a product — in this case, your product and that of your competitors.

In the case of a comparative usability review, we start by interviewing key opinion leaders (KOLs) — the administrators and other decision-makers at point-of-care facilities. KOLs typically don’t interact with the devices firsthand. However, they can offer pivotal insights into what they are looking for in a device like yours and why. In particular, KOLs can shed light on your market’s appetite for cost.

Next, we observe your primary users in their clinical settings as they interact with each of the devices in our benchmarking set. As we watch users interacting with products, we can see how long it takes them to complete various tasks, how many motions are involved, and the extent to which they struggle to execute various tasks. In our subsequent interviews with the users, they share their frustrations and preferences, which adds another layer of information.

4. Technical and Performance Benchmarking Review

With technical benchmarking, it’s time to hit the lab. Here, we perform a battery of mechanical and electro-mechanical performance tests on your device and your competitors’ products. For example, let’s say your company is producing a knee brace. We might test three different competitive knee braces — each of which boasts similar performance — to see how they stack up.

As we measure the effectiveness, speed, performance, and durability of each product, we come away with measurable data that helps set the bar for your product’s construction and performance. In addition, we take a closer look at how your competitive devices are built to achieve the results they get.

Putting it All Together in a Visual Benchmarking Map

Once we’ve completed all four benchmarking exercises, we put it all together in a visual benchmarking map. This visual summary of our benchmarking findings is like a performance chart. It’s broken up into various categories, such as usability, technology, features, and performance. By looking at the map, you instantly see how your product compares with the competition.

As we review the visual benchmarking map with your team, we point out performance gaps and identify high-priority user experience pain points. Finally, we identify opportunities for improvement and innovation that will enable your product to leap to the front of the pack.

Interested in learning more about how MPE (Formerly Mindflow) can help you set the right parameters for your medical device with benchmarking? We’d love to talk.


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