The Role of Rapid Prototyping Techniques in Transforming Digital Healthcare
Rapid prototyping techniques are an integral part of the design process. From automobiles to engineering, to even the culinary arts, anything that relies on design has to be prototyped at various stages of its creative process.
What happens within the process of prototyping? In simple terms, prototyping helps validate the feasibility of the product or concept by matching it with user expectations and needs.
What is a Prototype?
A prototype is a simulation or sample version of a final product or application used for testing before launch. The goal of a prototype is to test and validate products and ideas most inexpensively and eliminate possibilities of failure as early in the process as possible.
“Fail faster, succeed sooner”– David Kelley
Prototyping is a crucial step in the design process as it helps to highlight and resolve any issues related to usability before its actual launch. At the very least, it reveals any apparent drawbacks and drives attention to areas that need improvement. Handing over the prototype of the product or application to its actual users truly reveals how they want to use the product. This helps adjust and rectify any drawbacks that may have raised your initial guesswork.
It is erroneously believed that prototyping only needs to be done once or twice at the end of the design process; whereas, it is always better to test early and test often to avoid nasty surprises at the end.
Rapid prototyping techniques come in varied forms and can be deployed in different stages of the design process.
Paper prototyping is the most common among the crude rapid prototyping techniques, and is recommended for the earliest stages where the design direction is vague. Examples of paper prototypes include sketches, diagrams, doodles, paper interfaces, and storyboards. Here, simple screens are drawn on paper and configured to mimic a digital interaction. This works best in the early stages of design, mainly for testing product ideas.
Crude prototyping methods are fast and inexpensive to create and can be used as a great tool in initial ideation and brainstorming meetings. On the downside, they are quite unrealistic and are no substitute for the digital version, and are therefore of little consequence in the advanced stages of product development.
Digital rapid prototyping techniques are used to test more realistic and solid ideas, happen to be the most common form of prototyping, and are realistic enough to accurately test most interface elements. These can be built using prototyping tools and software like Marvel or Proto.
Alternatively, simple versions can also be made using presentation software like PowerPoint or Keynote. These prototypes, even the low-fidelity ones tend to be very realistic – they let you test how the user interacts with an environment comparable to the final product. Early and frequent testing is key here, and lo-fi prototypes help you progress in the right design direction on a minimal budget.
The third rapid prototyping technique is the high-fidelity prototype, which replicates the final product to the last detail.
These prototypes are only recommended at advanced stages of product development to provide the groundwork for the final code. While these are valuable in terms of giving a very realistic representation, they are also expensive and time-consuming and require a high level of expertise to create. Hi-fi prototypes make sense when the requirement calls for making simple edits or upgrades to an existing product, or in the case of very complex projects that need accurate simulation.
Rapid Prototyping Techniques: The Dos and Don’ts
- Set your goals and KPIs for the testing and know the questions you want to answer. You have to be clear about what you need to understand regarding the product.
- Set yourself a time limit for building the prototype, since it’s easy to get carried away by adding more features
- Include your entire team, including the developers — to discuss the possibilities in the final product.
- Add too many features. It is recommended to build one prototype for each question or assumption you’re testing – simple versions reveal clearer insights.
- Tell the user how much effort you’ve made to build that prototype — it can influence the users’ opinions.
- Be a perfectionist — a prototype doesn’t have to be perfect. Discussions can work well if there are some errors, which can lead to valuable discoveries.
Rapid Prototyping Techniques in Digital Healthcare
Rapid prototyping techniques fall under the third diamond of the double-diamond design model, which is the “Design” phase. It involves creating a simplified version of the product or service to test and refine its functionality, usability, and user experience.
This iterative process allows for the early identification of flaws and quick rectifications, enhancing the product’s quality while keeping development costs in check.
Rapid prototyping techniques enable product leaders to avoid expensive redesigns down the line and timely releases to address market needs.
According to a 2019 National Library of Medicine study, administrative inefficiencies contribute to roughly $265.6 billion wasted in healthcare annually. This shows the need for efficient systems.
Rapid prototyping techniques allow you to build and test different iterations of your healthcare application swiftly and address the inefficiencies early on. Imagine being able to spot a bottleneck in a claims processing workflow, or a glitch in an EHR that disrupts a doctor’s workflow, long before it reaches the users. Now, that’s what rapid prototyping enables.
It doesn’t just highlight inefficiencies; it’s an opportunity to innovate, streamline workflows, and dial into what users need. So, you’re not merely solving problems, but also exploring numerous solutions, gauging development and logistics trade-offs, and committing to a solution after carefully considering the time and resources to revolutionize your product.
5 Best Practices To Make Rapid Prototyping Work For Your Healthcare Product
At the heart of rapid prototyping lies an undying commitment to user feedback. The solutions are crafted not just for clinical efficacy and economic viability, but also for tailoring the intricate details of the user experience. But worry not. Here are three best practices to make rapid prototyping work for you:
Infuse Feedback At Every Stage of Prototyping
Integrating feedback loops in every stage of prototyping is pivotal not only for usability but also for aligning the product with regulatory standards, interoperability requirements, and economic considerations. This approach is encapsulated well by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright who once said,
You can use an eraser on the drafting table or a sledgehammer on the construction site.
The quick feedback gained from the rapid prototyping process allows you to ‘fail early and fail cheaply,’ detecting flaws or mismatches in the design phase instead of the costly development or deployment stages. It also helps to ensure that the final product meets the diverse needs of all stakeholders involved. Additionally, this practice aids in fostering a culture of continuous improvement and agility, essential for keeping pace with the fast-changing healthcare landscape.
Don’t Spend Too Much Time On Any One Step
The key to successful prototyping is to avoid getting bogged down in any single step of the process. The primary objectives of creating a prototype are to get feedback from users and to provide a roadmap for developing the final product.
As such, it’s important to remember that the prototype doesn’t have to be perfect; it just needs to be good enough to:
- Accomplish the user goals
- Keep the development feasibility in check
- And incorporate user feedback.
Leverage a Combination of Anticipatory and Participatory Design Approaches
When it comes to effective prototyping, consider blending participatory and anticipatory design approaches – the results can be transformative.
Start with a participatory design. Immerse yourself in the world of your users – healthcare professionals, patients, researchers, insurers, clinical staff, and administrators – by involving them in design activities. Conduct in-depth interviews, execute user research, and run usability tests to gain insights into their needs, pain points, and expectations. Use these insights to refine your prototype in a way that reflects their experiences.
Parallelly, practice anticipatory design. Delve into user data and patterns to comprehend their needs even before they are expressed outright. For instance, machine learning algorithms can predict medication adherence patterns, enabling your application to proactively send reminders. The focus here is on proactiveness – foreseeing and addressing user needs before they surface. This will help you create applications that not only respond to but also anticipate users’ needs.
Prioritize Function Over Form
Michael Guggenheim in his article The Long History Of Prototypes argues:
“Prototyping should not be limited to the creation of initial versions or test models of products, as is often done in industrial design. It should be viewed as a broader approach to cultural practices”
This involves using a tentative, trial-and-error process that draws on user input to drive improvement in products and practices. You can start with a low-fidelity (lo-fi) prototype for easy, quick alterations in the early stages. As you iterate, you can progressively move towards a high-fidelity (hi-fi) version, eliminating what doesn’t work at each stage.
This approach resonates with a general rule of thumb in software development:
Errors caught in an earlier phase cost significantly less to fix in terms of effort and money – about a tenth of what they would if discovered late in the process.
Let’s understand this by taking an example of an electronic health records (EHR) system. Instead of focusing on the aesthetics of the user interface (UI) in the early stages of prototyping, the emphasis should be on building a functional flow that mirrors the workflow of healthcare professionals.
Prototyping can first tackle how a doctor will efficiently enter patient data, how that data will be stored, and accessed by other healthcare professionals, and how it can be retrieved for future patient visits. Such prototyping should consider how to streamline processes to reduce administrative burden and improve patient care.
Design For Adaptability
Development teams typically prioritize scalability, but it’s also important to consider adaptability.
Designing for adaptability involves building systems that can change and evolve to meet new needs and market conditions. Here’s the primary difference between both:
Here are some tips for designing for adaptability using rapid prototyping:
- Start with a clear understanding of the problem you are trying to solve: Before you begin designing, make sure you have identified the key features and functionality that your prototype will include.
- Keep it simple: Focus on the core features and functionality. Keep it simple and avoid adding unnecessary features or functionality.
- Use modular design: Break the prototype down into small, discrete modules that can be easily modified or replaced as needed. This makes it easier to adapt the prototype to changing requirements.
- Involve stakeholders: Make sure to involve multiple stakeholders in the design process—users, developers, decision-makers, etc. This way you will get feedback and insights that will help you design a prototype that is adaptable and meets business goals.
Benefits Of Rapid Prototyping in Digital Healthcare
Rapid prototyping techniques aren’t just an approach—it’s the bedrock of successful digital healthcare solutions. Here are some noteworthy benefits of the same:
User-Centric Design: Rapid prototyping puts users at the heart of the design process, leading to digital healthcare solutions that are easy and intuitive to use.
Financial Success: Exceptional UX design built through iterative prototyping supports revenue growth, attracting new customers, driving product adoption, and contributing to overall business success within budgetary considerations.
Faster Iterations and Time-to-Market: Time is of the essence, especially in healthcare. Rapid prototyping propels the development cycle, enabling swift iterations, rapid feedback integration, and an impressive time-to-market speed.
Cost Savings and Risk Mitigation: Identifying design issues early in the process with rapid prototyping in digital healthcare prevents costly reworks later on, saving time and resources.
Before You Begin: Think About Partnering with the Right Team
Selecting the right UX team is pivotal to successful rapid prototyping in digital healthcare. When considering potential partners, it’s critical to assess their experience in healthcare, their understanding of the users’ needs, and their aptitude for innovation. Seek a team that can comfortably navigate the regulatory landscape and has a proven track record of crafting successful healthcare solutions.
Consider these potential team configurations, each with its distinct strengths and potential benefits:
Experienced Healthcare-focused Teams: These teams bring a deep understanding of the healthcare landscape, users’ needs, and regulatory intricacies like HIPAA. They’re best for complex projects requiring extensive healthcare knowledge.
Innovation-driven Teams: If your project aims to disrupt the status quo, teams that thrive on innovation are your best bet. They’ll push boundaries and help you create groundbreaking solutions.
Versatile All-rounders: If you’re looking for broad expertise, all-rounder teams adept at responsive design, cross-discipline collaboration, effective version control, and thorough documentation could be a wise choice.
Remember, the right team will deftly combine technical prowess with creativity, enabling a seamless transformation from abstract ideas to user-friendly digital healthcare solutions. Choose the one that best aligns with your project’s destination.
Rapid prototyping is an important step in the design process that helps ensure success. When done right, it helps in saving resources, time, and money, and results in well-crafted designs that can be validated with users. Remember to prototype quickly and often throughout the design process, and your results will say it all!