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Design: Industrial Design, Visual Design, Interaction Design, UX/UI
Research: Ethnography, Focus Groups, Personas, Interviews, Card Sorting
At a Glance

Boston Scientific Neuromodulation (BSN) was looking to start early development of a next-generation medical implant to provide effective therapy for Chronic Pain and Parkinson’s Patients. 

 

In order to best understand the existing unmet needs and size preferences, we attended surgeries and programming sessions, as well as conducted Focus Groups and Interviews with Surgeons, Chronic Pain and Parkinson’s Patients, Caregivers and Sales Reps.  Following the rounds of research, designs for the remote, implant and software surrounding the experience were explored and refined. 

The Challenge

Effective therapy is the most important aspect to both doctors and patients. Ultimately, patients and doctors want the patient’s symptoms to be managed and their lives to go back to normal. The therapy was already doing a lot to increase patient quality of life, however, the weak point was the peripheral devices. Becoming comfortable with having a medical device implant was only one part of the challenge. The ongoing issues were tied toward ensuring that patients could keep their implanted battery charged and understand how to use their remote control. 

 

With two distinct patient and physician types, a desire to include geographic diversity, and a complex, personal and sensitive subject matter, great time and care had to be considered into the architecture of the project.

The Challenge Image

This project grew me as a researcher. To this day, I consider the chance to walk the path along with someone who is dealing with either the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s or Chronic Pain to be one of the most humbling moments in my research career. To be given the chance to understand, at least in part, how frustrating it is to want to feel better, but have technology be in the way gave us and our client a renewed vision for what could be.

Sarah Garcia, UEGroup UX Researcher

How We Did It

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Ethnographic Clinical and Patient Observations
 

Before speaking with any end-users, our researchers and designers were able to watch surgical procedures and programming sessions in order to better understand the overall environment and experience for all users. During these observations and more informal “hallway conversations” early opportunities for feature improvements, messaging, and device refinements became evident. 

 

At the end of the day, the patient has the most personal relationship with the device and the peripherals. As such, the research took a very personal approach by talking with patients in their homes, oftentimes with a caregiver. Being present in the patient’s space made it possible to see first hand the struggles with charging and managing all the peripherals. It also exposed the harsh reality that these patients face in their lives every day.  

Surgeon Focus Groups
 

Focus groups with surgeons were conducted across the United States and included both individual and group activities. Through card sorts and group discussions, surgeons were able to make tradeoffs on the size of the implant versus the features.

 

 

Persona Development
 

Once all research had been conducted, observations and summaries were made, and personas were created to identify and describe the core patient users. These personas aided in giving a name, voice, and personality to the patients that they represented.

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Design Thinking Iteration
 

Using these personas as a guide, we conducted brainstorming sessions internally and with Boston Scientific. Through this process of reflecting the research, proposing solutions and addressing known issues from Boston Scientific, design directions were delivered.

The Final
Solutions

Initially, BSN and UEG assumed that patients and surgeons would favor a smaller device to additional features, but it became clear through the research that the size of the device implant was one of the least important aspects. The entire process of remembering to charge and charging effectively and efficiently became an overarching theme and was identified as the largest burden. 

 

Patients had trouble aligning the charger, understanding if the battery is charging or not, and remembering to charge.  Because of the difficulties with charging, a slim belt charger with a larger charging surface was designed.  Other major needs included increased patient education and a customizable controller which was addressed through a lifecycle app that guides the patient through the stages of implantation and life with the device. Overall, it was clear that for such a personal device, the products needed to take a more empathetic approach and feel more like consumer goods instead of medical devices.

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