Facilitating user participation in the design of medical appliances

Healthcare is a field that encompasses many different stakeholders. This certainly applies to the medical appliances and treatment systems that are used in the field and is one of the aspects that make design of these products difficult. Additional to the amount of stakeholders, the technical evolution contributes to design difficulty by making medical appliances and their use more and more intricate. If users - which are the most relevant stakeholders in design for usability and experience- can participate in the appliance design process, the implementation of a new technology might entail less friction, than with non-participatory approaches.

My research will focus on the question how participatory design techniques can be used to create or improve usability and “experience” of complex medical appliances and treatment systems.

The complexity in complex medical appliances refers to technical sophistication as well as to the treatment procedure that is arranged around the appliance. The degree of complexity of the appliances or systems I look at is comparable to treatment systems in radiation oncology or endoscopic operation suites. The use of these appliances or systems does not only require a specific training for the user but does also involve a lengthy treatment procedure that is set up to achieve a acceptable medical outcome consuming as little time, staff and material as possible.

Participatory design actively includes the users during the design process, which means that they get a sort of “design assignment” and are provided with an adequate degree of freedom in their decision space to make a relevant contribution. Herein it is crucial that participants can somehow experience the consequences of their choices to be able to make informed design choices at an early design stage. Participatory design can be facilitated by several techniques such as for example so-called “design-games” (mainly digital or physical board games) or role-playing techniques.

The research is, among others, related to Scenario based Design, Co-Design, Participatory Design, Design Games, Design for Safety, Design for Emotion, Experience Design and Design for Usability.

Contact information

Julia A. Garde, MSc / Phone: +31 (0) 53 489 4729 / j.a.garde@utwente.nl

Julia A. Garde (1981) holds a Master’s Degree of Industrial Design Engineering in Design & Styling. Her graduation project was the design of the area around the incubator in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. In this project she approached the design problem from the perspectives of Design for Emotion and Design for Usability. Currently, she is an assistant professor at the Laboratory of Design, Production and Management at the University of Twente. Here she teaches courses in design styling & sketching and design projects . Recently Julia started her PhD research regarding the development and appliance of participatory design methods in the design process of medical environments. By the use of participatory methods she aims to improve the usability and “experience” of complex medical appliances and treatment systems.