SonoSite is known as the provider of reliable, portable, application-specific ultrasound machines. The design of our systems help save lives by providing doctors fast access to vital information. SonoSite systems are used globally in hospitals, doctor’s offices and in remote locations.
Innovative engineering helped SonoSite establish a high quality and reliable brand by offering excellent image quality in a small device. However, technological innovation alone was no longer enough to solve some of the new challenges facing our customers: increased hospital borne infections, rising costs, and compromised quality of care.
SonoSite’s opportunity was to combine our impressive technology with a delightful user experience to tackle these issues, to evangelize ultrasound technology to a broader customer base and to provide a replacement for cumbersome, complicated, traditional ultrasound machines.
SonoSite has very close relationships with its customers. Not only do we often go into the field to learn how to make our systems better, but also, our customers often come to us to share their ultrasound experiences especially when they involve unusual circumstances. For example, Floating Doctors presented on transporting our portable system on boats throughout Central and South America to access remote villages.
We started X-Porte by visiting medical practitioners in a variety of specialties throughout Europe, Japan, the U.S. and Canada. We watched, listened to and engaged with over 80 people to learn what X-Porte needed to be to achieve their goals. We then went back to them at various stages of development to make sure we were on the right track.
Not only did we look at what features and attributes X-Porte needed to provide, but also, observed how medical practitioners use technology in a larger sense. A key insight we gained from this research was that our users were infusing consumer devices into their medical practices in a significant way. We built on this insight, specifically designing the user experience to provide a smooth transition from personal devices to medical systems.
Our customers have said the impact of X-Porte will be enormous. For them, X-Porte delivers:
- An all touchscreen, easily-cleanable interface to reduce hospital infections.
- Familiar interaction patterns that reduce learning curves.
- A customizable interface that supports faster workflows.
- A user experience that seamlessly transitions between the physical and digital operation of the system.
- Hardware that is easily maneuvered to scan patients at their bedside, thereby avoiding long wait times and patient travel to other parts of the hospital.
- An on-board learning system that empowers users to develop or refresh their ultrasound skills.
- Excellent image quality that provides an alternative to much bigger, complicated and cumbersome systems.
- A potential alternative to more expensive, less safe imaging technologies like CT scans.
- A system that evangelizes ultrasound technology through its approachability, ease of use, and customization.
Creating an exceptional user experience within a medical technology company required some thinking outside the box. Instead of “throwing the design over the fence” to the next discipline and focusing only on usability, we needed to design a way of working conducive to creating the user experience we wanted.
First, we tore down the silos between human factors, visual, industrial design and added the interaction design discipline. Second, we pooled design methodologies across disciplines to understand how different design languages would impact the product. Finally, we distilled our understanding of our audience into three common design goals: access, simplicity and confidence.
For example, simplicity was expressed by industrial design that focused on the use of honest materials and by creating the slim silhouette that makes X-Porte easily movable. In the UI, simplicity was realized through designating “one tap for important features” “two taps for secondary features” as well as through automated imaging settings that reduced the number of adjustments needed. In visual design, uncluttered layouts and color-coded modules, assisted in “way finding” throughout the system.
Ultimately, we wanted the technology to disappear for our users – becoming a tool that enabled them to spend more time with their patients.