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Leading the Horse to Water – A System Design Approach to Onboarding

Over the past decade, the number of smartphone users has rocketed to more than 3.5 billion globally and that number is forecast to grow by several hundred million in the next few years (1). Medical device developers are turning to smartphones and digital solutions to help improve usability and patient adherence. While the potential for connected solutions is high, how can we ensure users adopt them?

App Onboarding

App onboarding refers to the act of introducing a user to a digital solution, highlighting key information, and making sure they get set up effectively. When considering the onboarding experience of connected medical devices, it can be helpful to think of the analogy ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’. In digital design, the challenge is almost the reverse of this. There are myriad tools to keep users engaged once they have onboarded on a digital solution, from screen prompts to positive feedback techniques. However, what do we have at our disposal to coax them to these solutions in the first place?

Companion App Onboarding

Onboarding within companion apps for connected drug delivery devices is a slightly different situation to standalone apps. A standalone app delivers a full service, whereas a medical device companion app cannot deliver the drug itself – a device is, of course, needed for that. Instead, the app is merely there to enhance the device experience, to help prompt, educate, and reassure the user, as well as record and pass on their data once they’ve agreed to share it. When discussing the user experience (UX) or the user interface (UI) of a companion app, it’s important to consider more than just pixels and touchscreens. The app is one part of a bigger system design that includes the physical product, structural packaging, printed patient information, and educational material. Developers need to consider not just how to onboard the user onto the app, but what might motivate and guide them to download it in the first place, connect their device, and sign up to the full connected experience.

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Paul Greenhalgh has 20 years’ experience in the development of medical devices. Since joining Team Consulting in 2001 he has worked for some of the largest pharma companies and most innovative medtech start-ups, developing groundbreaking solutions to improve the way healthcare is delivered. Paul is driven to design products that provide the level of UX we’ve come to expect, all the while working within the tight constraints of a highly regulated industry. He has a degree in Product Design from Central St Martins, London, UK.
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