Driving Medical Device Design With Visual VOC Research

June 5, 2012

By Tiffany Hogan, Director, Research & Strategy

In our Research and Strategy group, we have been working for years to integrate and benefit from the varied backgrounds that we all bring to the table. We are an eclectic mix of designers, social scientists, market researchers and product researchers (to name but a few). As a result of this mix of skill sets, we have been able to combine and build upon our standard methodologies – tweaking things just enough to produce added value with every study we undertake.

One of the techniques we use here at Ximedica to help support design decisions and direction is the practice of “Visual VOC.” Presented with Human Factors design in mind, traditional voice-of-customer data is transformed into a visual format. These huge graphic representations are presented poster-style, and can cover an entire wall in a conference room. While the initial value of these posters lies in being eye-catching, we have also found that documenting user needs in this manner is beneficial both to our clients and to our own designers.

For one thing, our clients tend to come to us lacking a full understanding of their medical product’s users and how it is used throughout its entire use cycle. By closely observing and inquiring throughout a product’s use cycle, we are able to break the cycle down into discrete moments, and then present everything in a visual, chronological order. This allows our clients to more fully understand the path that their products take from delivery to disposal.

Both our clients and our design team appreciate the connections we draw between needs and use-cycle moments. These moments include the various different users (such as biomeds or purchasers) paired with visual representation (typically accompanied by a color-coded hierarchy of needs), and they help drive the decisions needed to prioritize and direct the translation of needs into product specifications. Fundamentally, creating a Visual VOC clarifies information to drive design decisions.

As an example, I recall a long and heated discussion between a researcher and a designer, standing in front of one of our VOC maps. They argued over the need for a particular product to be a fully-wrapped disposable versus the need for the product to be conveniently packaged without a wrapper, in a dispenser. With the product use-steps fully displayed in a chronological fashion on the wall in front of them, they were able to trace out the implications of either choice to all users, and against the prioritization of each group of users.

Finally – the presentation of user needs in a visually striking format invites team members to get up, move around, lean in and engage with research data and each other. It beats trying to stay awake while staring at projected spreadsheets on a wall!

The use of our Visual VOC evolved from blending user-need data with a human-centered understanding of product use, and has empowered our team to more efficiently and enthusiastically provide user insights to both clients and our own designers. We highly recommend it!