What are the Driving Trends in Medical Design and Technology?
For many years, we have used the Medica Fair in Düsseldorf as a benchmark for the most up-to-date medical design trends. This year, we have decided for the first time to publish our research as an extensive trend review.
At their core, medical devices have to work (an endoscope isn’t a wristwatch, after all). But as designers, we are aware that these tools have to do more than “just work.” They have to also work with wide variety of different end users. This results in many different approaches to design problems with equally diverse solutions. This year, we decided to thoroughly explore what’s trending in medical device design, as we have explored other trends in past years.
Now presenting: MEDICAL DESIGN TREND REVIEW 2016: A summary of the most Influential Trends in Medical Device Design
We are excited to present an in-depth analysis of trends in the medical device market as a comprehensive PDF (available at the end of this article). We hope this tool will be informative and insightful, and serve as professional guidance when making design decisions. To give context to the most significant trends, we have created “experience boards” on Pinterest which communicate trend language.
How did we do it? Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at our process.
Firsthand experience is the most organic form of research. You may have seen us at the Medica/Compamed fair in November of 2015. Seizing the opportunity, we spent the days of the fair conducting over 40 interviews with medical professionals from a variety of backgrounds. We also received visitors to our own booth in Compamed hall 8a, where we conducted over 100 additional interviews.
We arranged interviews with a variety of professionals- from the industry giants, to niche businesses with only one or two specialized products on the market. We connected with manufacturers of complex diagnostic tools, as well as promoters of wearables (a particularly hot topic this year).
Because design happens worldwide, we looked beyond our own borders- speaking to representatives of companies from many different countries. Professionals were eager to share their opinions, providing constructive input and sharing their views of the medical device market.
Of course, we also conducted supplemental research to support our findings, comparing popular products in context with the rest of the market. We also drew from our own experiences with clients during our review, and took the opinions of components manufacturers and fellow consultancies into account.
One might argue that “medical device design” is too broad a field to cover. There are obvious differences between a surgeon’s workstation, and a pediatrician’s stethoscope. However, we were able to observe a number of overarching trends, as well as usability trends in products covering a wide spectrum of health technologies.
So, what did we find?
Here’s a quick overview of the top 5 trends:
1. Showing new technology
There is a constant push for technological advancement in medicine- naturally, we want to improve the quality of life. How do care providers display their advancements? Thrusting all of the information at the patient immediately causes confusion and misunderstanding. We have noticed instead a “more with less” trend, of honing devices down to the essentials. In the meantime, information is conveyed to the patient in an understandable way while providing a structured interface for the medical professional. The result is a sophisticated product that promotes speed and efficiency. Check out our WILDDESIGN Pinterest boards for New Technology and Additive Design.
2. Usability with a human touch
The word was constantly repeated at Medica 2015, and for good reason- both new and experienced professionals want a product they can understand. Devices with practical customization features, and borrow usability cues from consumer electronics, create familiarity in tools with an otherwise high learning curve. Medical staff expect seamless transition between electronics used in the home and devices used in the workplace. Find more examples of usability on our Usability and Touchscreen | Usability Pinterest boards.
3. Aesthetic statement
First impressions are 100% looks- and in the medical sector, this design aspect cannot be neglected. Devices housed in an overly sterile or aggressive casing can incite discomfort and even fear in patients. Fortunately, patients’ emotions are being considered. Reflective in calmer color schemes and material selections, new devices are designed to feel like household artifacts rather than diagnostic tools. See our Black & White Design and Minimalism Pinterest boards for more.
4. Living Well
A healthy lifestyle is universally important, and personal care should be observed instinctively. With growth in “wearables” popularity, more people are picking up self monitoring devices to feed that endeavour. Now a more complete concept of care is emerging, as the clinical experience is also reshaped. We observed an effort to create relaxing, “ambient” environments and devices that appeal to users’ emotions, while remaining functionally uninhibited. Hygiene also falls into this category- from a technical standpoint, devices that are smooth and easy to clean (but also look hygienic) are preferred. Check out our Pinterest boards Self-Monitoring and Ambient Contact.
5. Asian Influence
We can connect to nearly anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice. This interconnectedness has opened opportunities for international developments that didn’t previously exist, particularly with medical device sales. As a consultancy with both German and Chinese offices, we are well aware of this trend. Devices have developed their own colorful identities, rather than duplicating existing designs. We’ve also observed the effects of different cultural values on medical device design. See our Asian Influence Pinterest board for examples.
Due to the rigorous standards devices are held to (and the complicated approval procedures of the CE, FDA, and CFDA), the life cycles of medical products develops gradually, but spans a longer period of time.
In 2015, we saw a shift towards design that engages and empowers users. People are becoming more perceptive of their bodies and their experiences at the doctor’s office, and thus desire more control in the management of their health.
Themes from past years -minimalism, “black-and-white”, and simplicity- have been observed this year, and will surely be prevalent in the coming years. Usability has gained importance; human factors consideration defines the difference between a polished and an unrefined product. Responsive devices (that also emanate quality assurance) are demanded by patients at home and in the hospital.
We also saw a shift in the global market. New competitors are appearing, including companies of Asian origin that did not previously influence western markets.
For the future, we predict more colorful and atmospheric devices that are both professionally befitting and informative to patients. We’ve seen more “wearables” and aesthetics borrowed from sleek and minimalist consumer products.
We hope our readers can use this trend report to guide their design decisions in practice, and to also better understand the different factors affecting the medical device and technology sector.There will undoubtedly be interesting developments in the coming years.