Addressing Challenges in the User Experience with A Human-Centered Design Approach

When it comes to building virtual care solutions, designing an intuitive user experience is key. However, challenges can arise in the user experience when developers fail to consider the solution from the perspective of different user personas.

Take for instance, Alcidion’s smartphone app, Miya Care, which empowers patients to remotely share clinical data with their care teams, eliminating the need for traditional phone or video communication. The solution includes a patient’s smartphone and a separate thermometer that connect via Bluetooth. Miya Care only recently moved into patient trials at RPA Virtual in Sydney, with whom we have a strong partnership with. This cooperative effort embraces multiple stakeholders’ input (developers, clinicians, and patients) to create a value-driven solution.    

Entering the trial, we braced ourselves for some initial hiccups; however, the testing was reasonably smooth and successful up to this point. We were shocked when the trial had to be stopped early. We had anticipated technical problems with the thermometer or Bluetooth connectivity, but the technology was functioning without fault. Analysing user behaviour through screen recordings revealed that the issue was not a technical one at all, but rather, a usability one: patients did not use the device as intended.   

The design included a battery-saving feature that causes the digital display to go blank after connecting the thermometer with the app. Despite the blank screen, the device remains active and connected for over 10 minutes, causing a frustrating cycle of follow on effects.

To resolve this issue, we turned our attention to the user experience (UX) and prototyped a new design. In this redesign, our goal was to improve communication with patients throughout the process with prompts and clear instructions. We started with simple, textual prompts to inform the user when the device was connected and when they should start taking a temperature reading. This new experience was tested on patients who had never used the previous prototype, and it revealed slight differences in the usage patterns, yet not entirely successful ones yet. Now, the patients either held the thermometer too far away or pressed the button for too long, resulting in failed readings.  

The next iteration incorporated animations to show the device in action. The test results were significantly better, suggesting that users understood the animations much more clearly than the text. In the end, only minor changes regarding the timing of the animations were necessary to achieve 100% success among this group of users.

This process goes to show that value stems not only from technological innovation but also from understanding the needs and expectations of the individuals it serves. It is a delicate balance between functionality and usability. Prioritising a human-centred design approach can help minimise some of these issues and deliver greater value, more efficiently.  

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