Objective. The importance of user involvement in design, development and diffusion of all devices is widely accepted; however, the methods of achieving true user contribution to a design or development process are challenging. The challenges are increased when the target consumers for the device have disabilities that can make traditional methods of gaining user involvement at best difficult, and at worst impossible. The objective of this paper is to evaluate the effectiveness of a number of user involvement techniques employed on projects carried out by the authors.
Main Content. Devices for Dignity (D4D), is one of two pilot Healthcare Technology Cooperatives (HTCs) set up in January 2008. The principle for HTCs is to bring together health professionals, industry, academia and end users to create ‘technology pull’ and technology transfer into the National Health Service and as such, user involvement is a core element of D4D's approach . When embarking on a new project, D4D considers the most effective user involvement method and tailors the information gathering to the user population. Four delivery methods that have been used are discussed in this paper: Focus Groups; Online Surveys; Qualitative Interviews ; and Design Workshops [3, 4]. The approach taken to differentiate these common delivery methods to the needs of the HTC and to ensure that the methods used were appropriate for the intended participants will be discussed. The effectiveness of the methods in extracting appropriate data will also be evaluated.
Results. The authors have successfully used the four delivery methodologies highlighted to: provide evidence for unmet needs; develop specifications for new devices; progress from specification to early design ideas; and evaluate early designs.
Conclusion. User involvement in device design, development and diffusion is important; however, it requires careful consideration and differentiation of the appropriate methodology when working with potential consumers who have disabilities. The authors are formulating a strategy to ensure effective and timely user involvement in projects as this is key to ‘technology pull’ and technology transfer within a healthcare technology co-operative.