From insulin pens to blood glucose monitors and eye screening equipment; medical devices play a prominent role in diabetes care

Despite regularly working on a variety of medical device design, development & engineering projects, there are always improvements to be made and taking the time to really understand user needs is a crucial piece to the puzzle. Through our network of consultants, clinicians, partner universities and clients, we aim to engage with users from as early as possible in the design & development process. This helps us uncover valuable insights and use human factors engineering (HFE) to improve patient outcomes.

In light of World Diabetes Day, we spoke to Chris Harrison, who has been living with Type One Diabetes for over 40 years to learn about and share his experiences of Diabetes Care.

A bit about you

My name is Chris Harrison, I am 52 years old and was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes when I was 12, so have been living with it for 40 years! I am a Cycle technician part time, a keen cyclist & petrol head in my spare time, whilst being very active within the car club/meets scene.

Your device

I currently use the Abbott Care Freestyle Libre Glucose Monitoring System after buying it privately for a period, whilst petitioning with local MP’s and my GP surgery to finally get it on prescription. From this device I roughly get 20 scans per day. The information it gives is a game changer in managing my diabetes mainly because it is working 24/7, whereas past systems I have used, such as the traditional finger prick method, only give a snapshot of the condition at the point in time the prick is done.

Is there anything that you like about your device?

In addition to the fact it is monitoring my blood glucose levels 24/7, I also like that the system can be a complete package with optional alarms and reports to help monitor trends. This real-time monitoring and extra information can also be shared with my support team so they can monitor my diabetes and provide appropriate advice and care without the need for lengthy face to face visits.

Infographics on Access to Diabetes Care by the International Diabetes Federation for World Diabetes Day, 2021

Is there anything that you dislike or that frustrates you about your device and / or drug delivery routine?

The device isn’t currently readily available on prescription and there can be a bit of a postcode lottery as to who can get it and who can’t due to the cost of each device – it took me 12 months of letters to MPs etc. to obtain a prescription, yet if I had lived 2 miles down the road, in a different county, I would have got it immediately. Due to this, many people with diabetes such as myself have to pay a high amount both emotionally and physically to get this level of diabetes care. Before mine was on prescription, it cost me £50 per sensor which is supposed to last 2 weeks, however, as I will come on to, sometimes you can get through them a lot quicker so the costs can soon add up dramatically.

As an active person, at both work & socially, it is very easy to knock the device off. Due to my prescription only covering 2 per month, any issues like this that cause me to run out meaning I can suddenly be left with no device to manage my diabetes, or have to pay an unexpected high cost for more (managing diabetes without it is like trying to drive with your eyes shut!!).

Whilst the device is fantastic for real-time monitoring and reporting back to my support team, I can only use either my phone or the Libre machine to scan & not both so there is no back up. I do get frequent ‘unable to scan’ problems, probably twice a day, so there are still some improvements to be made on the reliability.

This year’s theme for World Diabetes Day is ‘Access to Diabetes Care’ – how has access to care and the necessary treatments / equipment been for you? What advice would you give to others?

I get excellent support from Burtons Diabetes Centre & my GP with frequent check-ups etc. There is always someone available to give help & the Diabetes Centre are very quick to offer new equipment that they believe will improve my management of diabetes when it becomes available. My main piece of advice would be use / stay in touch with your back up team & GP, be open to trying new things as the technology is changing at a rapid rate. Manage your Diabetes, don’t let it manage you!!

Here at HD, we often work on various blood glucose monitors and drug delivery devices so Chris’s insights will be extremely valuable to current and, future device development projects. Get in touch to discuss how we can help you with your product or medical device development.


Amber Davies, Human Centred Designer & Digital Marketer Amber Davies 2 November 2021


Get in Touch with Amber Davies

Human Centred Designer & Digital Marketer

Amber graduated from Cardiff Metropolitan University with a degree in Product Design. She has a particular interest in the medical field stemming from her personal experience of using a medical device. She pairs her design background with her personal experiences to apply empathy and develop improved user experiences. Amber also combines this understanding to liaise with customers and create digital content at HD.

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