Maddison were brought in to support the Graphical User Interface (GUI) layout and graphical design for a set of medical body scanner imaging systems including an MRI scanner, PET/CT and Digital X-ray. The brief was to dramatically improve the usability versus the current systems on the market as well as develop a fresh, new look including innovative concepts in visualisation.
User interfaces for complex medical imaging systems have typically been designed from an engineer’s perspective to ensure all of the functional aspects of the system are able to be adjusted, controlled, and information presented for decisions and actions. GUIs using this approach are then prototyped and feedback from users used to modify the system to better fit the user needs. The result of this has been a non-intuitive GUI that is difficult to learn and confusing to use. They are often tailored to the “super-user” or senior consultant who may want to adjust many parameters, rather than the radiographer or technicians who use the system day in day out and want a simple set-up around more basic parameters. Other approaches start with first gathering a deep understanding of the functional requirements (or typically using in-house engineers already familiar with most of the functions) and then engaging with users before commencing the GUI design work. Whilst this approach is better, it still approaches the GUI design with a functional mind set.
Our client for this project wanted a market-changing, user focused system that would be a step change in usability for their range of products.
Research and Development
The approach Maddison took with this project was to first thoroughly understand the user environment, user needs and typical use patterns before delving into the functional requirements of the system. This way we always had the users at the forefront of our mind, and throughout the development work, we kept referring back to the users we talked to saying things like “John was always confused by why these steps were required and just accepted the preset parameters and was frustrated by the need to go through these loops”. We made sure we studied a variety of environments, and users, including high-throughput public hospitals and low throughput private institutions. We also profiled the different user types and user roles as these are often not the same.
Our fresh-eyes approach, without the in-depth knowledge of how the MRI or PET/CT scanners worked, kept us always focused on the user and human factors aspects. Developing an EN 62366 based usability specification for complex systems like these is a huge task so before this we wanted to map out typical workflows to get a framework in place that would match the real user needs and clinical workflow. We modeled up early stage wire-frame designs and then prototyped these with simple interactive tools so that users could play with them and give feedback. Using this feedback helped us evolve the designs and prototypes before supporting the usability specification and detailed design.
Based on the early wire-frame screen designs, we developed several look and feel concepts to communicate the clients core values for the product. These were then refined and a single concept developed further including innovative graphical elements to help selection of scan types and display of patient positions.
The final result was a market leading suite of Graphical User Interfaces for the various imaging systems. They had a very professional, yet user friendly look and feel to them. The design was such that the user could easily navigate through the most common procedures from a clinical perspective and bring up more complex parameters and views when required. The system is easy to use by beginners but gives them the confidence and scope to smoothly progress to more proficient and expert use of these very complex and capable systems.
One of the challenges of a GUI for a body scanner is patient management. The user needs to focus on the patient being scanned but at the same time is setting up the scan parameters for a queue of patients as well as processing and QA checking the previous patient data before it goes to the PACS. This GUI design solved this challenge by a clear and logical patient identification process and visualisation with many reinforcement features to avoid the chance mixing up or miss-identifying patients.