Around a month ago, our team conducted a remote Summative Human Factors Test on an in vitro medical device required for this pandemic in six weeks, start to finish. Looking back in hindsight, we all have the same response: “How on earth did we manage to deliver it on time?”
A lot of effort was spent on a plan to make sure that this Human Factors study could be performed within the short time frame given and execute it to the best of our abilities. As we were testing during COVID-19, there were many odds against us at the beginning, but as a team we stepped outside our comfort zone, sharpened our focus, and set our priorities. Prior to testing, we had to ensure that the Study Protocol, Moderator Guide, Recruitment Document, Informed Consent Forms, and Data Collection Spreadsheet were ready for testing. Nothing builds relationships like teamwork on a tight deadline!
When it came down to planning the execution of the remote HF testing, a lot of our efforts were focused on the logistical challenges prior to starting: network connectivity – how would we overcome dropped audio and video during the test sessions? Would all the representative participants be confident with using a video conferencing system? How would we ensure that we had the right angles to capture the participants’ interaction with the device? Would moderating over video conferencing hinder the moderator’s ability to control the environment and ease the participants? All these questions needed answers, but our main concern was the participants’ safety – how were we going to ensure the participants’ safety and confidence with using the device? In this case, reassurance on their comfortability and confidence was paramount prior to starting the HF testing.
Whilst we understand that the data gathered from remote testing may not be as high quality as face to face testing, it was the only viable way of conducting human factors testing during the lockdown period with these demographics of patients . It also helped that this device was a home-use in vitro diagnostic medical device as testing people in their own homes helped since the use environment was not simulated – it was real life!
We spent two weeks back to back testing (there were long days fuelled with caffeine) and then we finally completed testing 60 participants! Of course there were obstacles that we faced, as even scheduling that had been carefully orchestrated were faced with participant dropouts and people who were unable to participate due to other reasons. However, the accomplishment that the whole team felt radiated throughout the whole room. After writing up the report and liaising with our clients, we could successfully say we had completed a human factors test in six weeks, which was a success in itself.
A ‘lessons learnt’ meeting was conducted where the team debriefed what went well and what we could learn from – and improve upon when we next conduct remote human factors testing (we are back performing face-to-face testing currently). Some of the lessons learnt as a team was how to schedule and manage remote human factors studies, and how to manage a whole testing team that were all remote The overall project outcome was a triumph and gave us a large insight on how to navigate online spaces and conduct human factors testing in a realm that we personally are not used to.
Would we conduct another study with a six-week deadline? Of course! Even though we came out against all odds, we realised the luxury of having time on our side to plan and have execute with confidence. For example, a typical Summative human factors study from start to finish takes around 8-10 weeks and we tend to have longer to recruit and execute the study and report, but with two test teams, the six week deadline was achievable in this case.
Junior Human Factors Engineer
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