There has been an ad running on TV that asks you to “Count the number of buttons in your car – Now count the number of buttons in your tablet.” They then ask “Isn’t it time the automobile advanced?” Lots of things have changed about cars over the past few decades, but the user interface has changed very little. Most dashboards still are full of gauges, buttons and old fashioned switches. I recently had the opportunity to see Tesla’s Model S up close and one of the first things I noticed is that the dashboard lacks most of the traditional controls. It does have a steering wheel and turn indicators, but not much else. All of the traditional controls have been incorporated into a touch screen.
When I see Tesla’s intuitive dashboard interface, it makes me wonder what it would be like if Steve Jobs had designed medical devices instead of Apple’s iPhones and iPads. Jobs was intensely focused on design simplicity and user interfacing. His devices were so intuitive that people could pick them up and quickly begin using them without resorting to manuals or special training. His touch screens used rugged “Gorilla Glass” and were free of bulky bezels and switches. Since the development of the iPhone, over 500,000 apps have been created for users to download. Invariably, these apps are intuitive and can be used immediately without requiring users to read elaborate manuals or receive specialized instruction.
Here is my vision of what smart medical devices might be like if Steve Jobs had designed them. Externally they would have flat panels with no knobs, switches, bezels or keypads that are prone to failure. Intuitive icons would enable any medical practitioner to pick up and use them without in-service training. Gorilla Glass panels would be glare free and self illuminating for use in darkened areas. Flat panels with anti-microbial surfaces that are easily cleaned would reduce the possibility of cross infection and assist a hospital’s infection control efforts. Internally, key circuits would have embedded micro sensors that monitor software, measure heat, current flow, and acceleration/deceleration (dropping). Any measurements that deviate from normal would immediately be reported via a Wi-Fi network to the Biomedical Medical Engineering department for action. On start up, devices would display their operational status, and alert users to the PM status and PM due date. (No more old fashioned stickers) Embedded sensors would enable routine testing and calibration to be performed rapidly using pre-programmed protocols and Bluetooth or NFC connectivity. Based on current technology all of these could be achieved today.
Many of you may have ideas of how medical design could be improved especially in terms of the user interface. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts. Perhaps collectively, we might be able to generate enough good ideas to influence future device design.
Your comments and suggestions are welcome
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