Monthly Archives: October 2013

Instructions, what are they good for?

Absolutely nothing, if no one reads them.

The view of many people when they encounter a new gadget and its instructions is “Do I have to read all that?“, “which bit do I need to look at?”  These are typical of the comments we heard during a recent lengthy usability study; even the people who professed to read instructions thoroughly only skimmed through them.  They blanched when the multi-lingual/multi-model user manual appeared.  When presented with these tomes, the frustration and despair of users is palpable.

Instructions are synonymous with restaurant menus; people only want to dip in and out, their eyes scanning and concentrating on the interesting bits.  Once the reader feels they’ve gleaned enough information from the quick perusal, they’re ready to start using the gadget.

Now, I’m no angel when it comes to following instructions.  I often only glance at information and then have to go back to the instructions when I can’t even switch a device on.  I’m not alone.  People seem happier tinkering and poking, figuring out how to do something manually, believing they have downloaded the basics with their cursory scan of the information. Continue reading

Finding a nutcracker

Medical device use is rapidly moving outside hospitals and clinics. Changing use opens up the possibility of increasing patient comfort and convenience of treatment, with therapeutic and quality of life benefits.  There’s also a reduction in hospital/clinic costs.

medical devices in the home - a tough nutBut we haven’t cracked the tough nut of how to adapt to this (relatively) new view of healthcare.  New risks and challenges come into view as these devices are placed in the hands of people who aren’t medical professionals.

My gut feeling is that the pressure to crack this nut will become intense over the coming months.

That’s why I’m (Matthew) travelling to the US next week, for a meeting with AAMI and the FDA about just this topic.  My particular interest is discussing the human factors implications, things like the design requirements, new risks and use scenarios (and of course potential abuse scenarios), what training and instructions need to do and how to deal with use errors away from immediate medical help.

As events unfold with the US government shut-down, will anyone be there from the FDA?  I’ll find out next week! Continue reading