MATCH (Multidisciplinary Assessment of Technology Centre for Healthcare) is a 10 year collaborative research project between 4 UK universities that aims to improve the quality ofmedical devices produced by theUKmedical device sector.A major theme of this research is onmeeting the needs of the users ofmedical devices, whether healthcare professionals, patients or carers. Since 2003 researchers from ergonomics, sociology, psychology and engineering have been working on this topic, in close collaboration with medical device companies, the NHS, and patient groups. The aim of this talk is to present some notable results from this research, and to outline key research priorities for the future. An important tenet of the MATCH research has been on challenging what ‘user requirements’ should mean in this field. Our position is that it is necessary – but not sufficient – to produce a medical device that is clinically effective and safe. To truly meet ‘user requirements’ it is essential that the correct device is produced: one that meets a clear clinical need, as well as one that is designed in a way that allows it to be easily integrated into the user’s work or life pattern and encourages correct, regular and safe use. To accomplish rigorous research with target users must be conducted from the earliest stages of development. An interview study with medical device developers conducted at the beginning of the MATCH project found that there are a number of perceived barriers to conducting this type of research. These include: a lack of in-house expertise in applying appropriate research methods; the need to negotiate complex and time-consuming research governance procedures; and the perception that patients and healthcare workers are not able to provide useful input into the development process with senior clinicians being seen as appropriate proxies for all user groups. Our empirical research has attempted to address some of these barriers. With regard to methods of user research, a case study of the development of a new medical imaging device showed how user research can be conducted from the earliest stages of development in a way that is scientifically rigorous yet also practical from an industrial viewpoint. This case study went on to demonstrate the value of adapting Contextual Inquiry for use in a healthcare environment. We have
also evaluated the potential value of blogs in providing companies with early intelligence as to the concerns of users with regard to medical technology. Finally, our research has highlighted the importance of understanding organisational barriers to incorporating and implementing the results of user focused research within the product development process.