Usability Engineering in Practice: Developing an intervention for post-stroke therapy during a global pandemic

Avril D. McCarthy, Louise Moody, Mark Reeves, T.Jamie Healey, Timothy Good, Lise Sproson, Adewale Adebajo, Wendy Tindale, Krishnan Padmakumari Sivaraman Nair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
32 Downloads (Pure)


This paper provides an overview of the usability engineering process and relevant standards informing the development of medical devices, together with adaptations to accommodate situations such as global pandemics where use of traditional face-to-face methods is restricted. To highlight some of those adaptations, a case study of a project developing a novel electronic rehabilitation device is referenced, which commenced in November 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The Sheffield Adaptive Patterned Electrical Stimulation (SHAPES) project, led by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (STH), aimed to design, manufacture and trial an intervention for use to treat upper arm spasticity after stroke. Presented is an outline and discussion of the challenges experienced in developing the SHAPES health technology intended for at-home use by stroke survivors and in implementing usability engineering approaches. Also highlighted, are the benefits that arose, which can offer easier involvement of vulnerable users and add flexibility in the ways that user feedback is sought. Challenges included: restricted travel; access to usual prototyping facilities; social distancing; infection prevention and control; availability of components; and changing work pressures and demands. Whereas benefits include: less travel; less time commitment; and greater scope for participants with restricted mobility to participate in the process. The paper advocates a more flexible approach to usability engineering and outlines the onward path for development and trialling of the SHAPES technology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-447
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Medical Engineering and Technology
Issue number6
Early online date24 Aug 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits
unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • Stroke
  • Stroke therapy
  • Usability engineering
  • Intervention
  • intervention
  • stroke therapy
  • usability engineering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering


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