World TB Day: Engaging end users when developing diagnostics

22nd March 2018 | QuantuMDx Team

To coincide with World TB Day, Mark Ware, Patient Engagement and Training Manager at QuantuMDx, highlights the importance of end user engagement when devising point of care diagnostic tools for infectious diseases like tuberculosis.

During my time living in and travelling around southern Africa and through my work in the non-profit sector, I’ve always been keenly aware of the inequities in access to high-quality healthcare around the world. It was for this reason that I was drawn to work with QuantuMDx, a company built around the co-founders’ beliefs that high-quality healthcare should be the right of everyone, irrespective of their place of residence.

In pursuit of this philosophy, QuantuMDx are developing innovative products like the Q-POC™, a simple-to-operate, rapid, low-cost point of care molecular diagnostics platform that is designed to meet routine diagnostic testing needs in resource-limited settings around the globe. To ensure our products meet these requirements, we have adopted a bottom-up approach to informing and vetting our designs, learning first-hand from the experiences and knowledge of healthcare professionals working in remote and under-resourced medical facilities.  We’ve taken these grass roots insights and incorporated them into our design processes from the very earliest stages of product development.

In my role as a patient and end-user advocate at QuantuMDx, I have already been privileged to meet with and interview many dedicated healthcare providers from public and private healthcare facilities, large and small, throughout India, Uganda, and South Africa. The learnings gathered on these trips – comprising direct feedback on early concepts of our test cassette, instrument software and TB assay design, in addition to observations of existing patient-care and testing practices – have been invaluable to our product development. It’s exciting to see that these end user insights are already yielding tangible design changes to our software workflows, as well as instrument and test cassette designs.

A further benefit of our end user engagement visits has been the chance to foster lasting relationships with healthcare providers, enabling us to evaluate the user-friendliness our products in real-world settings and ensuring that they are truly fit for purpose in low-resource settings.

There is a wide range of barriers a point of care instrument will face, not all of them technical in nature.  Understanding and planning for systemic and institutional considerations is essential. For example, issues related to task-shift for healthcare workers, language and technology barriers, cost-effective implementation, servicing and support.  Understanding the general hardships faced by patients seeking care in health systems with fragmented diagnostic and treatment services will be vital to the ultimate success of our products.

Within this role I hope we are able to develop the best, easiest to use product we can for the sector.  We want to make a diagnostic tool that is accessible to everyone and which will ultimately make patients’ lives better.