Involving all aspects of ergonomics—physical, cognitive and emotional—is the only way to create tomorrow’s engaging, enjoyable and appropriate device experiences, while fulfilling functional requirements as well as intangible needs.
Back in 1994 when I made my first steps in the business of ergonomics, I focused solely on the physical and cognitive aspects of human product interaction. I spent many hours designing and testing medical devices with users in order to improve the handling of devices, user satisfaction and user compliance.
However, during our efforts in improving the physical and cognitive aspects we were receiving a lot of feedback during our evaluations with patients and professionals related to other aspects, non-related to its function. Aspects more stemming from the user experience such as discreetness, color, pro-look and such were becoming more prevalent in the feedback we received. This type of feedback, at the time, was not considered relevant in the medical device industry, neither for HCPs nor device manufacturers.
The importance of Ergonomics³ The feedback from the users, on what was important to them, was related to the emotional connection between the user and the device – how the user experiences the device, the look and feel of it, how it feels to be in need of a device and have to integrate the use of a device in daily life and so on. So at Ergonomidesign we found it necessary to take into account all three aspects – physical, cognitive and emotional – of a user’s relationship to a device or therapy in our research and design process. This holistic approach now forms the backbone of Ergonomidesign’s research and design philosophy. We call it Ergonomics³.
Experiential information is collected high up in the pyramid and information about the product’s/service’s task is collected farther down in the physical segment.
While physical ergonomics ascertains whether a device is available, accurate and does the job, cognitive ergonomics relates to whether it can be used without difficulty by all users. The third aspect, emotional ergonomics, is about pleasure and personal significance. It is also about considering feelings like fear, awkwardness, feeling different or worrying about stigmatization.
User experience – anyone?
Good design research needs to encompass the user’s experience before, during and after interacting with the device. You might find a threshold for not using a device just because of the bulk of the disposables or the way they are shipped to the consumer. Design research therefore needs to be contextual. We must leave the comfort of our own offices and go out into the real world, into the clinics and into the homes of our users to uncover the tacit knowledge and latent needs that are the cornerstones of any creative work.
Medical devices have a wide variety of end-users – including children with physical and cognitive limitations, elderly patients, family members, physicians, nurses and hospital administrators. Each one has to be taken into account. It can be time-consuming and costly, but is very important when your aim is to develop truly user-friendly solutions, targeting long-time sales success. Together with the client we often know a lot, but we need all pieces to complete the puzzle and the only way of finding out what the other pieces are is by involving all parties, and all three aspects of ergonomics, in the process. This is the only way to create tomorrow’s engaging, enjoyable and appropriate device experiences that cater to intangible needs, as well as address functional requirements.