How Modern Web Technology Can Improve Your Medical Device’s UI

Does your medical device really need a screen? In this new article, Nikolay Khabarov, Principle IoT/IoMT Architect and Consultant at DataArt, describes the benefits of web technologies in creating a user interface for a medical device
6 min read
07/20/21
By Nikolay Khabarov
Principal IoT/IoMT Architect
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How Modern Web Technology Can Improve Your Medical Device’s UI

The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is a system of medical devices that are connected to each other or to an external network. The global IoMT market is expected to reach $142.45 billion by 2026 . To keep a competitive edge, provide the best possible service and ensure positive patient outcomes, medical device manufacturers need to make sure their devices perform all necessary functions.

User interface (UI) is an essential part of any device. A good UI ensures that the device effectively communicates with the end-user, usually with the help of various lights, switches and displays. When it comes to the MedTech industry, UI is crucial as it improves both usability and user experience. Medical device UIs must be intuitive, responsive, fast and simple. This ensures that any doctor or patient can easily communicate with the device without spending time on special training.

The Classic Approach to Medical Device UI

In most cases, medical devices are not connected to the internet, meaning a user needs to physically interact with the device. Some devices are connected to a computer via a USB cable. This requires software drivers to be installed and special software to interact with the user. Many devices are built using regular desktop computer hardware and have their own screens for control and data visualization.

There are certain disadvantages associated with this approach to UI. The software is typically written using a complicated programming language like C++ and requires a developer with specific skills to design the software. It is also OS dependent, meaning that the same software would have to be installed on all targeted operating systems. This approach to UI can also make it difficult to update the hardware because of the resulting software requirements.

As a result, creating a UI using this approach is complicated both in terms of development and for the end-users. On top of that, this approach does not provide the flexibility needed to ensure the best UX for doctors and patients.

Is there a better solution to building a UI for embedded medical devices? Let's look at the other options. We will first explore possible alternatives to the classic approach and then will consider whether your medical device really needs a screen.

Electron as a Framework for UI

One of the simplest solutions for creating an interface for your medical device is Electron. This framework is widely used in regular desktop applications. Electron allows a developer to build an application using web technologies. Electron-based application development requires JavaScript developers, so it is very similar to web site development from a time and price perspective. Electron supports ARM processor architecture and can be used with embedded devices.

An Electron application can be slow because it is not a native application. However, popular applications like Slack, Skype, and Atom Editor are Electron-based and work quite well.

Multicast Domain Name Service (mDNS)

mDNS allows you to create domain names for local devices, just like URLs on the internet. The majority of modern operating systems support mDNS. Any device can advertise its own domain name in the local network in the *.local domain.

This is the same interface that we demonstrated in the previous section. With this interface, the product created during user interface development can be reused for screenless devices. The same source code can be used to display user interface and remote web page access.

But does your medical device really need a screen or a desktop app? Do you want to spend resources on device drivers and desktop application development? There are several popular operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS X, Linux. Would you create a separate software solution for each of them? There are also mobile devices that require their own software. However, all user devices have a web browser and support mDNS.

In fact, instead of using a USB interface with a custom profile, OS-dependent drivers and user software, it is possible to utilize a universal network adapter, like a USB device, or WiFi to deliver software to a device via the web. These are the same technologies that are used to create a website. Software created this way will work on both end users’ desktops and on mobile devices. To update a medical device’s software and firmware, it is possible to generate an upgrade bundle: firmware and software will always have compatible versions.

Benefits of Web Technologies for Your Medical Device UI

This is not a novel idea. Nearly all home routers and access points have this kind of interface, and it has worked well for those devices.

Network adapters, including wireless adapters, are very affordable. It is, therefore, cost-effective to integrate these web technologies into wearable medical devices as well as stationary devices like lab automation equipment.

Bottomline

Let’s sum up the benefits that web technologies offer when it comes to creating a medical device with a user-friendly interface:

  • The most important benefit that web technologies offer is that they allow the creation of a flexible, intuitive and user-friendly UI for medical devices to ensure the best user experience (UX).
  • Is it possible to have a UI of web-enabled medical devices on your smartphone? Absolutely! It is even possible to build a PWA (progressive web application) inside a tiny microcontroller, which will act exactly like a mobile app. This means you can roll out the tool without publishing an app in the app store.
  • Yet another advantage of web technologies is that a manufacturer can create a new or updated model of their device and migrate the codebase and web application. In almost all cases, the web app will continue working with your device's model line. This means that the same app can operate on an embedded monitor and a screenless device.
  • Using web technologies to create your medical device UI can save you development time and cost, which can help you achieve a competitive edge in the fast-paced IoMT market. In the future there will likely be more embedded medical devices built with web technologies.

Web technologies will help your company save time and money while developing medical devices. We at DataArt are familiar with all best practices in creating user-friendly UI and would be happy to apply them for your projects. Contact us today!

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