A Designer in a Medical Environment

Part of being embedded in the medical practice is the access I have as a designer. I am constantly amazed by how willing people are to be involved in our research activities. I have had the opportunity to shadow physicians, chat with patients in various areas of the hospital such as the lobby, patient education center, cafeteria, and even sit in on their intimate, private moments of their exam.

In designing for an electronic medical record (EMR) software, I will always remember a nurse telling us how appreciative she was of us for listening. Too often products are made under assumptions or with either little or no understanding about the user and his/her context. She and other nurses during this on-site brainstorming session spoke candidly about their experience with the EMR. We listened to their anxieties, excitement, expectations and frustrations. Their insights were the core of our design recommendations and what made for a relevant product.

For another project, we asked participants (who represented the target patient) to collect their stool and come back to talk about their experience in a group setting. While there was much laughter throughout the focus group, we learned many things that informed the design of the collection kit. For instance, in response to a collection device prototype, one patient commented that, “Most people don’t like squishing their poop. They find it offensive.” This boldly honest truth gave us pause in designing a collection device that required a coring gesture.

In the same project, we wanted to understand, in addition to patient needs, of the needs other users. We wanted to know what the engineers, lab techs and nurses needed. With a welcoming tour of their work site and involvement in focus groups, those users provided insight that made for an all user-focused product.

Information like this is gold. Thank you to all of our research participants. This has truly been a privilege.