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Understanding the Role of Human-Computer Interaction in Medical Device Clinical Trials

Understanding the Role of Human-Computer Interaction in Medical Device Clinical Trials


Today, we're diving into the world of medical device clinical trials and the role of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) in shaping the future of evidence-based medicine. So, grab your metaphorical lab coat, and let's unravel the complexities of this fascinating intersection between technology and healthcare.

The Rise of Digital Devices in Medical Treatment

In recent years, the landscape of healthcare has been significantly transformed by the proliferation of digital devices. From apps for self-monitoring health issues to electronic devices for the treatment of various medical conditions, the integration of technology in healthcare has been nothing short of revolutionary. Consider this – there are now apps designed for self-monitoring of illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, and bipolar disorder. Moreover, electronic devices like nerve stimulators are being developed to alleviate conditions like chronic migraines and drug-resistant epilepsy.

The Traditional Approach: Clinical Trials in Medicine

Traditionally, the efficacy and safety of medical treatments have been rigorously tested through clinical double-blind, randomized trials. This approach, often referred to as the 'gold standard', involves dividing patients into two groups – one receiving the active treatment and the other receiving a placebo. This methodology has been the cornerstone of evidence-based medicine, providing a robust framework for evaluating the effectiveness of various treatments.

The Question of Usability and Lifestyle Issues

Now, here's where things get interesting. With the increasing integration of digital devices in medical treatments, a pertinent question arises – is the traditional evidence-based approach sufficient when it comes to evaluating the efficacy of these digital interventions? Should clinical trials of medical devices also encompass usability and lifestyle issues to comprehensively assess their effectiveness?

The Case of Epilepsy: A Lens into Clinical Trials

To delve deeper into this discussion, let's consider a case study of drug-resistant epilepsy. This condition not only has a profound impact on the quality of life but also presents a compelling scenario for examining the role of HCI in clinical trials. As we navigate through this case study, we'll unravel the complexities of integrating usability studies into the evaluation of medical device treatments.

Evidence-Based Medicine: Evaluating the Strength of Evidence

The fundamental principle of evidence-based medicine lies in recognizing that not all evidence is created equal. The 'gold standard' of evidence-based medicine involves conducting double-blind randomized controlled trials to ascertain the efficacy of a treatment. However, when it comes to digital devices, the applicability of this traditional approach comes into question.

Challenges of Adapting Traditional Protocols

Adapting the protocols of traditional medicine to evaluate digital devices presents its own set of challenges. For instance, replicating the double-blind randomized controlled trial model for digital devices may involve the use of sham devices or sham data for test groups. However, the efficacy of such sham setups in the context of digital interventions raises significant concerns, as it is expensive and difficult to design convincing sham devices.

The Role of Human-Centered Computing in Medical Trials

Within the realm of HCI, the focus extends beyond traditional efficacy measures to encompass design issues, health management, coordination, and long-term behavioral change. This broader perspective on evaluating the impact of digital interventions introduces a new dimension to the clinical trial landscape.

The Need for a Holistic Approach

As we navigate through this thought-provoking discussion, it becomes evident that the future of clinical trials for medical devices may necessitate a more holistic approach. Balancing the robustness of evidence-based medicine with the insights gleaned from HCI principles could pave the way for a more comprehensive evaluation of digital interventions in healthcare.

In Conclusion

In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, the integration of digital devices presents both opportunities and challenges. As we contemplate the role of HCI in clinical trials of medical devices, it's essential to recognize the dynamic interplay between traditional evidence-based medicine and the principles of human-centered computing. By engaging in this dialogue, we can pave the way for a more nuanced and comprehensive approach to evaluating the effectiveness of digital interventions in healthcare.

So, there you have it – a glimpse into the captivating intersection of technology and healthcare, where the realms of evidence-based medicine and human-centered computing converge. As we continue to unravel the complexities of this evolving field, let's keep our curiosity ignited and our minds open to the possibilities that lie ahead.

Stay curious, stay informed, and until next time, keep exploring the fascinating frontiers of science and technology!

Citation: Lene Nielsen, Lars Rune Christensen, and Anne Sabers, “Do We Have to Include HCI Issues in Clinical Trials of Medical Devices?: OZCHI17,” OzCHI ’17, Proceedings of the 29th Australian Conference on Computer-Human Interaction, November 28, 2017, 352–55,


  • Clinical Trials: 1) A research investigation involving human subjects that is designed to answer specific questions about the safety and efficacy of a biomedical intervention (drug, treatment, device) or new ways of using a known drug, treatment, or device). 2) A research study in which one or more human subjects are prospectively assigned to one or more interventions (which may include placebo or other control) to evaluate the effects of those interventions on health-related biomedical or behavioral outcomes.(1. modified from ICH E6 Glossary, Directive 2001/20/EC. 2. NIH revised definition 2015) (CDISC Glossary) (

  • Sham Devices: Placebo devices used in research studies to mimic the appearance and feel of the actual medical device being tested.

  • Holistic Approach: An approach that considers the whole person, including physical, mental, and social aspects, in the context of healthcare and well-being.