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Improve medical electronics by focusing on patient experience

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Patient experience? Px? Human Factors? engineering?

Safety is often the focus of the design of a great medical product. On the other hand, the design of a great consumer product requires a focus on aesthetics and loyaltypeople have to love it. The medical experience and the consumer experience are generally seen to be very different from one another. A medical device is something that is imposed on you and a consumer device is one that is sought out. Medical is something to be tolerated while consumer is something to be enjoyed. And these conceptions are reflected in the design of each type of product. Medical products generally look serious and functional andlet's face itdull. Meanwhile, consumer products are designed to evoke a delightful feeling from users.

Historically, the target user groups for medical products and consumer products have also been considered to be very different from each other. But the reality is, these two groups are the samethey are people. So how do we approach the patient/consumer (i.e., person) to incorporate his or her needs into medical device design?

There is an increasing overlap between the medical space and the consumer world. And there is a shift in people's attitudes about healthcare, from management of sickness toward maintenance of wellness. This change is happening in emerging areas such as connected health and consumer wellness, but also in more traditional areas, including drug delivery.

Connected health and health monitoring products, such as telemedicine and other connected devices, need to become a constant in people's lives because adoption is the key to market success. Adoption hinges on ensuring seamless integration into people's everyday lives.

The lines between consumer wellness products (such as a pedometer) and medical devices (such as a heart rate monitor) are blurring. Some of these categories of products are tangential to medical products in that they may be regulated but are not prescribed. As such, the devices are typically not covered or reimbursed by insurance. Therefore, consumers must feel compelled to spend their own money to purchase the products. Target markets for such devices include the worried well and caregivers concerned about aging parents, for example.

Even in the traditional space of drug delivery, there is a significant a shift toward a consumer-first approach. For the management of conditions such as diabetes where there is choice in therapies, companies have worked to establish brand differentiation and provide a consumer feel for items such as injection pens. Also, with the proliferation of biologics, the advent of new drug-delivery technologies, and a shift from inpatient hospital care to outpatient care, acute recovery and chronic conditions are increasingly being managed at home. Many of these patients require the delivery of complex drug regimens. Such regimens are driving the need for easy-to-use self-administration delivery systems that can be used in either the home or clinical setting.

Patients and caregivers survey
FDA classifies drug-delivery devices intended to be used by patients or lay caregivers as combination products. A combination product is composed of any combination of a drug, a device, or a biological product (i.e., two or more regulated components), such as prefilled syringes, insulin injector pens, metered dose inhalers, transdermal patches, drug-eluting stents, and catheters with antimicrobial coating. Cambridge Consultants, in conjunction with MassMEDIC, recently conducted qualitative research on the patient-related drivers around these types of drug-delivery combination products. Patients were asked about their experiences and priorities in selecting drug-delivery devices. Healthcare providers were also interviewed about the role of the drug-delivery devices in treatment decisions and in patient medication compliance.

More than 240 diabetes patients were surveyed. All of them use a combination product (such as a vial and syringe, prefilled syringe, injection pen, or insulin pump) to administer their medication. The research showed that patients are aware of their options and are driven to a certain extent by lifestyle factors such as discretion, portability, and feature sets. The study also demonstrated that there is some willingness for patients to pay more in order to get the features and convenience that they feel are important.

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