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Helping an Engineering-Driven Medical Device Manufacturer Develop a User-Centered Focus | By Paul Miklautsch

Driving product concept generation by taking a holistic approach to defining user needs.



The client, a medical device company, anticipated guideline changes that would affect their market and product portfolio. The risk of these changes being enacted would cause their current products to become obsolete. To maintain their relevancy and deliver a competitive advantage in the market, the company knew they needed to develop new technology that would be used in the hospital. Although their engineering team had already solved difficult technical challenges in proving the feasibility of their core technology, they did not have a deep understanding of user needs, nor how their concepts may affect existing workflows in the hospital.


The Start Something Bold core team included the Director of Medical, an Industrial Designer, and a Research Strategist who worked together on this project over fourteen weeks. It was important for the team to quickly understand the current workflow in the hospital and the different people and roles involved throughout the process. At the same time, the team needed to understand the client’s concept and current thinking on the proposed impact of the steps of use with this new technology and product.

Product design should support the needs of and remove the obstacles faced by the end-user. With that understanding, the team conducted observational research, recorded a time motion study, created storyboards and mock-up models of concepts, and conducted 1:1 interviews with users in the United States and Europe in order to understand user motivations and needs. The research included talking with stakeholders who are involved through the different moments of the hospital workflow. This included physicians, nurse managers, circulating floor nurses, technicians, and hospital managers


The research

Observational Research

First, the Bold team observed the workflow in the hospital setting to better understand the steps and interactions of the stakeholders throughout the process. 

Several videos were recorded during the observational research to show the workflow to the client and help them understand the steps of use. This provided helpful context to the client’s engineering staff, who were in charge of designing the product and had never observed the workflow within a hospital environment. A time motion video was also recorded in order to understand workflow in real time and learn when bottlenecks occur throughout a typical day.

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The Bold team held workshops with the client focused on understanding their technology and assumptions on the impact to new workflows resulting from their new concept. During these sessions, the team mapped out the process for various stakeholders and hospital departments and gave a clear picture of how a new product could solve key issues for users.


The Bold team then reviewed the technical development with the client’s engineering team to understand how users may interact with concepts and the team’s desired learnings from the upcoming research. This provided an understanding of the engineering team’s current thinking of the product’s architecture and form factors of components. Visual storyboards were sketched to show the current steps of use and demonstrate the possible usage of new concepts.

Mock-Up Models

After working with the client to understand critical tasks, the Bold team created several concepts in order to gain quick feedback on what components may still be missing. To help communicate the concepts, mock-up models of key components were built at actual size to best understand steps of use and learn from user interaction with the models. This provided quick feedback of early concepts so the engineering team could take user feedback into consideration before getting too far down the path of engineering a solution.

1:1 Interviews

With this solid foundation, the Bold team recruited and conducted 1:1 interviews with multiple stakeholders. During these interviews, current workflows were discussed to uncover user needs, storyboards of the current steps of use and new concepts were shared, and participants interacted with the mock-up models. This research was conducted in three cities in the United States, as well as in Germany, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. This allowed the team to capture differences between regions to ensure the client was developing the right product for a global launch.



The Bold team used video and audio of the research to break down specific user needs and feedback on the concepts. The existing workflow was then mapped out to show the interactions across all stakeholders. As the team evaluated and synthesized the research, key themes and findings were identified to minimize barriers to adoption for the client.



Start Something Bold delivered a slide deck, a summary book, videos, and an in-person presentation to the engineering and marketing teams. This presentation walked the client through the key findings and recommendations and was broken into the following main themes:

Product Desirability: Research uncovered clear understanding of what motivates users and clarity on how they make purchasing decisions.

Customer Types: Three distinct customer types emerged, each demonstrating different behaviors around adapting to new technologies and products.

Current State: Six main steps in the workflow were broken down by task, user, and room/environment layout.

Workflow Modifications: There were four main impacts to workflow modifications: Time, Task, Money, and Environment.

Concept Feedback: There were five major key findings to help the client with the development of their new product.



Through key findings illustration product desirability, customer types, current state, workflow modifications, and concept feedback, the client went from having assumptions on future workflow to having a clear understanding of user needs which drove needed updates to product requirements. Identifying potential barriers to adoption early on the R&D process allowed their engineering team to have confidence in moving forward towards building the right solution.

By Paul Miklautsch - November 26, 2019

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