UX for Contexts of Care | Medical Usability

Wearable in medical
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Individuals are increasingly using technologies for personal health. These practices are largely driven by products that monitor the body’s activities, identify symptoms, and suggest wellness strategies. From wearables to websites, the options seem endless; the challenge is designing usable products for this growing market.

Contexts of Care
The solution involves understanding the context of care, or where individuals use these technologies.  Location affects how people use products.  The better product developers understand such dynamics, the more effectively they can create usable designs for these settings.

Collecting Data
Understanding contexts of care means identifying where individuals perform health-related activities.  These locations shape the mental models that guide how we use devices.  Researching these context involves asking five questions in the order listed here.  The answers can provide insights on the models influencing usability expectations in these contexts.  (Note: The “X” represents the health activity you are researching.)

Question 1: Where do you do X? (e.g., check your blood pressure)
This question prompts users to access the mental model that guides their actions.  Accessing this model is essential to answering the later questions in this sequence.

Question 2: When do you do X?
Location is important; so is timing.  Checking your blood pressure in your kitchen in the early morning when everyone is asleep is one thing.  Doing so at the end of the day while also preparing dinner and watching children is another.  Each scenario requires a different design to make products usable in that context.

Medical clinic
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Question 3: Who is in that setting when you do X and what are they doing?
By focusing first on place and time, users can better visualize who might be in that setting.  They can also note if those persons help with or distract from a process – factors affecting the uses of a technology and related design needs.

Question 4: How do you do X?  Describe the process for me.
Users can now draw on a fully visualized mental model to describe how they and others in their environment perform care-related processes.  This fully visualized model is essential to understanding usability expectations and design needs.

Question 5: What do you use to do X?  Describe these items for me?
Mental models bring assumptions of what individuals expect to use and what those items should look like.  This information is essential to designing products users can recognize and use in a context of care.  After all, if users cannot recognize a tool, feature, or function, they can’t use it.

Final Thoughts
Mental models drive product use.  The better you understand them, the more effectively you can design products to meet user expectations.  The questions listed here can provide valuable data on models affecting contexts of care.  The answers can help develop products that meet user expectations associated with personal health activities. 

About Author

Author bio image

Kirk St. Amant 
He directs the Center for Health Communication (CHC) at Louisiana Tech University (USA) and is an Adjunct Professor of International Health and Medical Communication with the University of Limerick (Ireland). 

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