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Design Award Winner

BK Ultrasound

Portable Ultrasound Device

User Research, Interaction Design, Industrial Design, Digital-Physical Design, Technology-Based Innovation

BK Ultrasound needed to bundle its game-changing technology into an appealing, usable device.

Sonic Window’s immediate appeal is best summed up by a MedGadget reporter who compared it to “a remote control crossed with an iPod.”

Bresslergroup helped BK Ultrasound figure out how to integrate its complex and novel technology into an irresistible device.

Out of an estimated 300 to 500 million IV placements per year in the U.S using traditional techniques of sight and palpitation, one in three attempts in adults – and one in two in pediatrics – result in failure. 

BK Ultrasound, part of Analogic Corporation, a recognized leader for advanced imaging technologies, came to Bresslergroup with the ultrasound technology to overturn these painful stats. It gives users a real-time view of tissue layers up to three centimeters beneath the skin. And unlike with competing products that need to be tethered, the technology allows for a rechargeable battery – and true portability.

Our designers took these remarkable capabilities and figured out how to fold them into the award-winning Sonic Window.

Improved technology on its own isn’t enough to convince busy healthcare providers with established routines to embrace a new and unfamiliar tool. For the product to succeed, it needs to work better than whatever they’re already using, and people need to immediately understand how to use it.

To investigate how best to design the device to fit into and enhance users’ lives, Bresslergroup conducted three rounds of user research.

Focus groups with experienced nurses and EMTs in three different hospital settings yielded feedback on data management, product experience, and ease of use. Participants weighed in on their current routines and tools for administering fluids and taking blood samples.

Bresslergroup also tested different ways to integrate the device into these individuals’ workflow. Does it work best to hold the device on the patient’s arm until the needle shows up on-screen? Or is it better to find the vein, mark the site, remove the device, and do the procedure? How about using one hand to sterilize the arm and insert the needle with the other hand? Our team created storyboards to evaluate different scenarios.

Low-fidelity foam mockups were later tested with end users and experts to determine the ease of maneuverability with one hand while injecting a needle with the other.

Using the results of this user research, our designers generated early concepts for combined interaction and industrial design. We decided on screen size and resolution and on how the user would control the device.

We developed the information architecture and showed the client some user interface (UI) concepts with different versions of multiple screen types for their review. The digital and physical user interface needed to enable a list of behaviors, including powering the device on and off; navigating and selecting different functions; scanning to locate the vein; manipulating depth of view; and positioning the needle. Hierarchy of functions played into the UI layout. While it was alright to ask the user to take a few more steps (clicks, swipes) to navigate to secondary functions, primary functions — those that needed to be accessed most frequently — needed dedicated, easy to find controls.

Two higher-fidelity, interactive prototypes were subjected to qualitative testing with ten participants to reveal the best industrial design configurations. The participants included nine female and one male full-time nurse with varying degrees of experience working in metropolitan-area hospitals. 

The concepts were positively received and seen as useful for finding difficult veins and for training purposes, and user interfaces were learned quickly. One concept was consistently preferred over the other for all aspects except for controls, as most participants favored the tangible feel of the other’s mechanical buttons. Post-testing, our project team assessed these and other key findings in ergonomics, aesthetics, vein visualization, depth display, controls, and overall preference. Interaction and industrial designers worked in parallel to translate these research findings into device refinements.

While it was alright to ask the user to take a few more steps to navigate to secondary functions, primary functions needed dedicated, easy to find controls.

The resulting product is so easy to operate, it has developed a secondary use as a training device and is even meeting an increasing need for ultrasound equipment among clinicians from non-radiology backgrounds.

Since its launch, Sonic Window has invited comparisons to other well-loved products that make life easier — including magic wands, point-and-shoot cameras, remote controls, and iPods. It took home a Gold in the Medical Equipment & Devices category of Appliance Design’s 2015 Excellence in Design competition and was selected as a Finalist in the Industrial Designers Society of America’s (IDSA’s) 2015 IDEA competition.

In 2016, BK Ultrasound’s Sonic Window won a Gold Medical Design Excellence Award (MDEA) in the Radiological and Electromechanical Devices category. In 2017, the Design Management Institute recognized the development team behind the product with Third Place in its 2017 dmi:Design Value Awards.


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