Simple User Interface Facilitates Complex Afib Treatment
The Business Problem
Acutus Medical is a Carlsbad, CA start-up with a vision to revolutionize the treatment for irregular heartbeats. For several years, its engineers had been working on complex software that would enable an electrophysiologist to see, for the very first time, an irregular rhythm rather than rely upon algorithmic plot points.
The engineers had succeeded in creating a functional console to prove product feasibility and conduct testing. Day by day over the early project life, the software was added to and improved.
Acutus reached out to us for our expertise in human factors and user interface design. They wished to make the user interface which to that point, had been created by and for engineers, easier to use. We were hired to take a step back, look at everything, and make sure the user interface appeared to be, and functioned, as if it was all created at once.
The Client’s Challenge
As a privately held start-up, Acutus Medical was in the same race against time faced by many young medical technology innovators. Having already established proof of concept, the company faced an urgent need to achieve U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval as the basis for securing funds that would bring a revolutionary new product to market.
Accordingly, Acutus set a very aggressive timeline for MindFlow Design’s participation.
The user interface is displayed on a standard off-the-shelf LCD monitor attached to a custom computer cart console. The system also includes a catheter that connects to the console.
This use-case is different than many because the console user is an Acutus technician working in conjunction with an electrophysiologist who conducts the surgery. The technician usually sits outside the sterile field. The surgeon views a large secondary monitor while conducting the procedure. The surgeon gives audible commands to the technician who in turn interfaces with the UI and software, while the surgeon manipulates and guides the catheter into the heart.
A major challenge we faced is that the software produced lots of information that without our help might have appeared on the screen simultaneously, causing confusion. To prevent overwhelming the technician, we created a hierarchy of options. As the result of our efforts, the technician views the most important information front and center on the screen at the correct moment. The technician may drill down to access more detailed information if desired without distracting from the primary focus.
We created a 100-page user interface specification to serve as the Acutus software team’s UI development guide. It enabled many software engineers to work seamlessly toward a common goal while focusing on what they do best, programing software.
The UI had been functional with a generic MATLAB Windows-like appearance that didn’t match or support the desired brand identity or that of a cutting edge medical device. So in addition to improving the architecture and user experience, we overhauled the look and feel of the software to better align with Acutus’s brand.
Having met our deadline, we were pleased to learn that in April 2019, Acutus Medical announced FDA clearance of its second-generation AcQMap platform, along with CE Mark approval for its AcQMap software. Less than two months later, the company announced that it had received $174 million in funding to bring the product to market.