How many times have you tried prodding at the screen of a device and only after it has failed to respond have you remembered that it isn’t actually a touch screen? I know that I have done this, and after talking to a friend of mine who is a doctor in my local hospital, I am pleased to know that I am not the only one!
It is no surprise that the medical profession’s expectations of user interfaces has changed along with the rest of the population, and that they are a little frustrated when UIs used in medical devices haven’t moved on.
UIs are very important to how customers perceive a product and can certainly be a factor in whether one product is chosen in preference to a competitor’s product. UIs in medical devices are however much more than look and feel – information needs to be presented in a clear manner and the scope for input error needs to be minimised; safety is paramount, and of course the FDA’s Human Factors guidelines should be followed.
Of course medical device UIs are subjected to extensive testing, including usability testing. Once a UI is tested, it is important that it isn’t subsequently broken; hence automatic regression testing of the UI is crucial throughout the development. It is also crucial for product updates: the FDA’s analysis of the medical device recalls attributable to software failures finds that 79% were caused by software defects which were introduced when changes were made to the software after its initial production and distribution.
All of this results in much longer development cycles for medical devices compared to, say, consumer – a cell phone crashing is annoying, but not life threatening.
At Mentor we are proud of how we have helped customers develop their medical products, and over 90 FDA Class II and Class III medical devices have used Mentor Embedded’s Nucleus RTOS – ranging from Infusion Pumps all the way to weighing scales. We are proud of how we have helped customers develop modern but reliable UIs by offering best in class tools and proven embedded UI software, delivered and supported by a highly experienced graphics engineering team.