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, and partner universities, 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 centred design to improve patient outcomes.

Our user blogs aim to understand the day to day of using a medical device from the people themselves. Whether they’re termed as users, patients or consumers, ultimately, they are people that we design to equip. This week, we chat to Lottie, who shares her experiences of self-administering a biologic treatment to manage her Crohn’s Disease.

A bit about you

Hello, my name is Lottie! I am 21 years old and am originally from Canterbury in Kent. I am currently a student at Cardiff Metropolitan University studying MSc Product Design. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2017, a month prior to moving away to Uni in Cardiff.

Until lockdown last March (2020), I was training and competing as a Rhythmic Gymnast in Bath.  I have been involved in gymnastics since I was 6 years old so the sport will always be a huge passion of mine! I also love to source and edit music for gymnasts and dancers and help to visualise the style of choreography. Aside from design I love other creative arts such as, music, film, theatre, and dance.

Your device

I take Adalimumab, a biologic treatment which I self-inject once every two weeks. The treatment gets delivered to me by my Pharmacy around every 8 weeks. I have been on the medication since 2018 to treat my Crohn’s Disease – I am lucky that it has helped me a lot and I am able to do a lot more things confidently and comfortably.

Is there anything that you like about your device?

I like the design of the injection pen because you can’t see the needle due to a plastic encasing which helps in terms of anxiety. The design affordance is also clear, for example both the cap that is removed before use and the activation button are both coloured a bright yellow while the rest of the pen is blue and white, so this makes it easier to distinguish what the touchpoints of use are.

I also like that my Pharmacy automatically call me the week before I am due to organise my next lot of delivery, so this means I don’t have to worry about remembering to call them. It usually works well for me because I inject every other Tuesday and they normally call me on the Friday of the previous week so that I have the new stock by Monday which is perfect timing. However, it can be difficult as a student when I’m moving between home and Cardiff to organise my delivery being to a different address.

A short GIF of a user self-injecting a biologic treatment into the abdomen

A medical device user placing an auto-injector device into a yellow sharps bin

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

The medication has to be stored in the fridge, exactly in the centre on the middle shelf – it’s very specific! The pen also has to be removed from the fridge and kept at room temperature for up to half an hour before use, and I sometimes struggle to remember to do this. Because the medication requires refrigeration, I find planning travel quite tricky and restricting in some ways. As I am 21 and graduating this year I would love to travel in the near future (Covid permitting) but I am increasingly worried about the logistics of maintaining the routine of delivery etc for my injections.

I also have to keep track of the date that I am due to inject next, as well as the time and location of injecting as I alternate between two sides of my abdomen to avoid tissue scarring. Despite being on this for over two years, I still struggle with the organisation side, and I have forgotten to inject before. I also require a sharps bin and they can accumulate and be bulky to store which can get frustrating.

Disposing of them is also a task and takes user effort. I have had one previous bad experience with the injector pen due to the supplier changing. I hadn’t realised this until use, the design of the pen was different too. I was used to holding the button down but for the new pen I had to press and release.  I wasn’t aware of this until I used it and it was quite painful and a scary experience which still makes me nervous each time I go to inject.

Your ideal device…

It would be nice if the injections didn’t take up so much space in the fridge and maybe also a reminder for better user experience, which could reduce stress and anxiety.

Here at HD, we often work on on various parenteral and injector device projects so Lottie’s insights will be really valuable to current and, future projects! Next, we will be exploring the experience of using a catheter.

Get in touch to learn more about our approach or discuss how we can help you overcome your design and engineering challenges.

Amber Davies - Human Factors Design Engineer & Marketing Manager at Haughton Design Amber Davies 27 May 2021


Get in Touch with Amber Davies

Human Factors Design Engineer & Marketing Manager

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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