Designing for a successful user experience is critical in virtual care. At Alcidion, we are committed to our human centred design process however good design comes with an interesting set of challenges.
In Miya Care, our smartphone app, patients can remotely provide clinical care information back to their care team independently without always relying on phone or video calls. For this to work well the patient experience needs to be smooth.
Miya Care is relatively new and was recently moved into patient trials at RPA Virtual in Sydney. Alcidion and Sydney LHD have a strong partnership, working in collaboration to develop this important new technology for patients. We are all very excited about the potential!
Going into the trial we had expected some teething issues, however, the testing had been reasonably smooth and successful. There was a sense of confidence in the project team. The app was working well and the configured content designed by Sydney LHD was excellent. So, it was a surprise when the trial had to be stopped early due to a serious usability issue – Patients were unable to operate the digital thermometer.
We didn’t initially know how this was happening. The temperature readings are received in the Miya Care app through a Bluetooth connection to the thermometer. In application testing and in other end user (inpatient) tests, no significant issue had been identified.
The answer was uncovered by one of our lead software engineers – it wasn’t what we expected. We anticipated a technical problem with the thermometer or a Bluetooth issue. This was not the case. The software and the thermometer were functioning without fault. What they did notice was something strange in the user behaviour in the screen recordings. When the thermometer’s digital display goes blank, users would repress the button. The engineers knew that this was not actually required. Despite the blank screen, the device remains on and fully connected for over 10 mins. However, users were understandably interpreting the blank screen as the device switching off. Pressing the button too frequently without waiting causes the device to effectively restart. As a result, this blank display – which was presumably provided as a simple battery saving feature – was the main cause of the trial being stopped.
Once these facts were established the focus shifted to the user experience (UX). Alcidion prototyped a new design for collecting temperature from the Bluetooth thermometer. Then we gave the design to Sydney LHD’s UX design team who provided further input into the design and conducted a series of tests with new users. Together, through several iterations of prototyping and testing over a few days a final design was settled.
The most important goal of the redesign was to draw the users attention to the phone and away from the thermometer. The idea was to get the patient to wait until they had a Bluetooth connection before taking a temperature reading. We started with simple textual prompts telling the user when the device was connected and then to take a temperature reading. The design was prototyped and tested on people who had never previously touched the thermometer. The tests showed that the new usage pattern worked very reliably.
The remaining problem was that many users didn’t follow the new instructions. Even the simplest textual instructions did not work for first time users. Users were holding the thermometer too far away or pressing the button too long causing more issues. We were surprised that the new design initially made things slightly worse in a small sample of user tests.
Our next approach was to try improve the basic design by using an animation to show the device in use. The test results were immediately much better. The animation evidently explained much more than the text could. The timing was still a bit off but through further testing the right balance was struck in terms of detail and length. In the end with only minor changes the final group of users tested the design and the results were one hundred percent!
To summarise our learnings
- The usage of Medical measurement devices needs to be simple and intuitive for patients
- Don’t rely on textual instructions to on-board patients to a new device
- Collaborative design is an effective approach that brings a form of peer review and new perspectives
- Fast iterative low-fidelity prototypes for user feedback earlier in the process is very effective for resolving user experience issues
Ben Thow is a Product Lead at Alcidion
This work was originally presented by Ben Thow and Allen Dizon at the AIDH Digital Health Summit Sydney, 17-18 October 2022