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Early User Research When Developing Medical Devices

MATCH has been able to help both the NHS and a medical device company to understand precisely where a new medical imaging device is needed. This research allowed the company to make a critical business decision on the concept of the device, based on which patients would benefit and which healthcare staff would be using it.

These insights sprang directly from MATCH's development of novel and rigorous research methods that allowed the project team to build a deep and comprehensive understanding of potential users, their needs, characteristics and capabilities.

The work was undertaken by Dr Jennifer Martin, a MATCH senior research fellow in human factors. She joined a project entitled Blood Vessel Imaging for Phlebotomy and Surgery (BVIPS), funded by a Technology Strategy Board grant. The project was a collaboration between industry (Moor Instruments), academia (Nottingham University) and the NHS (Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and the Royal Devon &Exeter Hospital Trust) The project team comprised experts in biomedical and clinical engineering, medical physics and nursing.

The outcome of our work is a quality new medical device, which meets the needs of those people who will use and be treated by it, predominantly in renal and oncology departments. Those patients will experience less pain and distress than otherwise and will be treated more efficiently and effectively.

user centred design process

MATCH user-centred design process for medical device development.

The project

The Blood Vessel Imaging for Phlebotomy and Surgery project was set up to develop a new medical imaging device. MATCH helped with a key part of this process by conducting user research throughout development.

Dr Jennifer Martin, a MATCH senior research fellow in human factors, designed and led the user research conducted at each stage of development and oversaw the data collection at the two NHS sites. Novel and rigorous research methods were applied which allowed the project team to understand precisely the context of use as well as who would use the device and their needs .

The feedback from the project team revealed that MATCH made a significant contribution to refining the concept of the device, identifying target users (both clinical and patient), as well as spotting unknown clinical needs.

Crucially, the research found that there was not a widespread need for the new imaging device within the general hospital population who were the original targets for the innovation. However, a number of significant clinical needs were identified in renal and oncology departments that had not been previously considered. This meant that the primary users of the device would be completely different groups of healthcare staff to those originally envisaged. As a result, the concept of the device was changed to ensure that the needs of the healthcare staff treating these patients were prioritised. The knowledge will help with marketing the device.

The MATCH methods also allowed the company to measure the needs and capabilities of potential users of the device, plus physical and organisational barriers to adoption. This makes safe and effective uptake of the device more likely.

Next steps

Moors Instruments are currently deciding on the most appropriate route for commercialisation. New funding and investment is being sought to support the next stages of development.


Further information

Dr Jennifer Martin 0115 846 7255