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How to Build a Better Vital Signs Monitor

As designers, when we get the opportunity to see our work make it into the real world (and out of our creative brains), we get all giddy inside. That’s why we were thrilled today when our client Welch Allyn announced the release of the Connex® Vital Signs Monitor (CVSM) 6000 Series, a core part of the Connex® Electronic Vitals Documentation (EVD) System.

By bringing a patient’s vital signs into one system, the EVD helps doctors and nurses to better capture patient information and send it wirelessly to an electronic medical record. All this can be done in one place with the CVSM—eliminating the need to find a computer and transcribe it later. This significantly reduces errors in capturing patient information, making the job easier for doctors and nurses as well as for patients, who ultimately receive more efficient care.

Bringing a medical device to market can be a real challenge, so it’s rewarding to take a look back at the collaborative design process between frog and Welch Allyn that led to today’s successful launch.

Our work with Welch Allyn began with an extensive design research phase that spanned 32 different locations across five countries. frog’s design analysts, designers, and engineers went into the field with Welch Allyn teams to identify insights and opportunities by visiting primary care physicians as well as post surgical and intensive care wards at several hospitals. This helped the team to gather insights from both the patient and healthcare provider perspectives.

In parallel, frog conducted stakeholder interviews and workshops to fully understand Welch Allyn’s business goals, opportunities, strategies, brand and technical constraints.


Understanding use

Understanding pain points

Leveraging the insights and findings of this research phase, frog looked to build an intuitive, approachable, and durable design for the CVSM that would match the quality and precision that the 100 year-old Welch Allyn brand is known for.

Our approach involved an iterative process of design, mock-ups and form models, together with user interface simulations that gave us tangible and immediate feedback on a variety of concepts. This was coupled with in-depth participatory design testing sessions held at frog’s San Francisco studio where we transformed a conference room into a hospital work environment. We invited doctors and nurses to participate in these sessions, and their experiences helped us to identify the most meaningful design solutions.

Evolving concept sketches


Early form factor studies

An early UI testing concept

In participatory design sessions, we used a high-fidelity interactive prototype on a touch tablet PC screen and asked participants to perform specific tasks.

Testing prototype concept

For the final phase of the project, frog worked closely with the Welch Allyn development team to assume the design directions from the previous phase, both physical and digital, were practical and achievable in the finished product.

While Welch Allyn worked on defining software, electronic, and mechanical details, frog refined the physical and digital designs to match. With client development teams in four locations across three countries, communication and collaboration in addressing design challenges as they emerged was a key to a successful solution.

Exploded architectural view

Reflecting the hospital and clinical environments where it will be used, the industrial design of the CVSM uses durable materials with easy to clean surface finishes, color coded touch points, an accessible handle, an alarm light visible from 360 degrees at a distance, and a full-color touch screen display suitable for use with surgical gloves. The user interface is simple, despite its ability to handle complex information, allowing patient data and monitoring to be easily customized and sent wirelessly to electronic medical records. 

Before the availability of the EVD System, studies have shown that 10,000 omission and/or transcription errors can occur per year for a typical 200-bed hospital or clinic; 8,000 hours were wasted with manual vital sign documentation; and more than $250,000 was lost in productivity due to lack of access to vitals. We are thrilled to have partnered with Welch Allyn on a solution that minimizes these issues, helping doctors and nurses to become more efficient and deliver the best care for their patients.