There are many telehealthcare devices currently available ranging from personal alarms, automated pill dispensers and fall detectors through to monitoring devices for blood sugar, blood pressure and heart rate. Many devices remain unused once acquired or shortly after a period of initial use.
The study used a qualitative design involving focus groups and interviews. End users’ opinions of telehealthcare devices were examined through focus groups along with the views of market experts and key supply chain players through telephone interviews to ascertain their views on the devices. The data were recorded, transcribed and analysed thematically.
Amongst the wide range of user issues associated with telehealthcare devices two themes merited particular attention: design characteristics and the lack of focus on end-user needs. Our findings suggested that few telehealthcare devices appear to be developed based on the principles of user-centred design. Consequently, many were non-intuitive to use, with the majority of the focus group participants not recognising the purpose of the devices from their appearance alone.
Greater input from real end-users rather than “proxy” users such as carers, professional users or technologists is required when developing telehealthcare devices or systems. Design should be focussed on intuitive use to enable the user to successfully achieve what is required from the devices. This may require the existing supplier—driven market focus to be challenged, but could improve the contribution of technology to improving healthcare.