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The 5 Most Common Mistakes in Designing Wearable Devices for Healthcare


Remote patient care using wearable technology is now a normal part of healthcare in many parts of the world. According to Insider Intelligence, thirty million US patients will use RPM tools by 2024. Nearly nine out of 10 healthcare providers indicated in 2019 that they invested in or assessed remote patient monitoring technologies.

Wearable devices for healthcare are becoming more accessible and affordable. This welcome change offers opportunities to manufacturers that traditionally focus on hospitals and clinics with new potential revenue channels as they start offering their services to consumers.

When designing wearable devices or looking for wearable device design experts, manufacturers and startups looking to get into this industry should bear in mind some lessons from the past.

Voler has seen these five common mistakes made over and over.


1. Not Understanding Customer Needs

Be sure to get good marketing input for the requirements. Every device has very specific requirements, and the customer's needs must be understood even before the first draft of the requirements is created.

When developing a novel device, you don’t want to ask the person what he wants. Henry Ford said people would tell him they wanted faster horses. You must understand the customers’ pain points. What would drive them to buy something new, even if they were unsure it would work?

If this is unfamiliar to you, you should consider hiring a marketing consultant with experience developing customer requirements. An experienced marketing consultant said that you understand the customer's needs well enough when you already know what a customer will say before going into the interview.


2. Incomplete Requirements

The requirements must be very clear to ensure the design team is clear about what they should do. If anything is unclear, the resulting product may not be what was desired.

Requirements should be written such that each individual requirement is testable. The finished device should be tested to confirm it meets the requirements.

Medical devices are required to have this testing called Verification testing. Veteran consultants will advise you if the requirements are not complete enough.

A good starting place for help when you want to develop a medical device for the US market is an article by Rob Church for Voler Systems, Developing Product Requirements for Medical Devices.

Read more about getting started with developing medical devices. If you are developing a non-medical device, read this article about developing requirements.


3. Not Doing a Good System Design to Plan Power Consumption, Battery Life, and Size of the Device

The requirements need to specify how long the battery will last, the size of the device (including the battery), and the performance of the device.

It is important to do an early system design, select key parts, and calculate the power consumption. From this, the battery size can be calculated, and trade-offs can be made for desired performance.

For example, you may collect data less often to extend the battery life, or you may choose a larger size battery and device to collect data rapidly. Some of the techniques that call for an expert team include designing the software for low-power mode switching, energy harvesting, and selecting the right wireless technology.

An expert electronic design team will be able to decide the most appropriate power conservation strategy.

Voler’s team consists of wearable design experts who have developed numerous successful wearable technology products and medical devices by managing the design trade-offs between size, power, and cost. We work with you to select the best wireless standard for your application based on your project’s unique requirements and goals.


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4. Poor Project Management

You need good requirements, frequent communication, and careful planning to get the best results from your design team. In technical development, poor communication is more often the cause of failure than technical issues.

The requirements are the beginning of good communication. Weekly meetings with the design team make sure everyone is on the same page and helps resolve issues quickly.

Poor project management results in delays, cost overruns, and products that are hard to manufacture or have poor quality. It can even result in a product that does not meet the technical requirements.

Good project management can deal with changes while having minimal impact on the cost and schedule.


5. Hiring an Inexperienced Design Consultant

The mistakes above can often be attributed to hiring inexperienced design consultants. When selecting a consulting team, check that they understand good project management and the need for good communication.

If they are not able to advise you on your requirements, they may not understand their importance. It is also important to hire engineers with the experience to know how to avoid problems.

After decades of doing designs, a good engineer will know how to avoid designs that are likely to create problems.

When designing wearable devices for healthcare, the sensible approach is to seek help from wearable device experts like Voler Systems, which provides full-service R&D consulting from concept and design to transfer to production of medical devices for human use.

Recent Voler projects include a wearable for medical eye care procedures and a wearable for sleep analysis.


About Voler

Located in Silicon Valley and with more than 40 years of electronic design experience, Voler Systems continues to be a leading custom product design consulting company providing highly experienced electrical engineering and firmware development. Voler Systems ensures delivery of quality products, on time, on budget with low risk. All projects are undertaken with good specifications, the right people, quality design, constant communication, and a smooth transfer to manufacturing.

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