Several of our group recently presented at the 2011 Plastics in Medical Devices Conference, in Huron, Ohio. Here’s what Carolynn Johnson had to say on the importance of conducting Design Research as healthcare moves from the clinical environment to home healthcare:
As healthcare moves from the realm of the clinical setting, in which medical professionals are always on hand when patients are present, to the home health care sphere, it is absolutely vital that user research be given due diligence. The home environment is spectacularly different from the clinical environment, not just in the physical dissimilarities, but also in terms of the scenarios of use in those environments and with regards to the users’ and the caregivers’ goals and aspirations. All of which result in very disparate patient or caregiver interactions with the tools required to maintain a medical condition.
However, manufacturers that are accustomed to doing research in a clinical environment will encounter a drastically different research landscape as they move into home health care research.
The Home Health Care Research Landscape
- In clinical environments, research participation may be easier to establish; simply identify those patients with the condition that you wish to study. Patients in the hospital have already given consent for treatment and for the data collection to support that treatment.
- Data collection protocols already exist in clinical settings, and many of these protocols are so well practiced by medical professionals as to have become engrained behavior – think of the nurse taking a patient’s vitals.
- Patients in the hospital expect observation and data collection – whether it is the nurse coming in to check vitals or the doctors looking over the patient’s chart.
- Within clinical settings, there is generally organizational support from management already in place for research goals, and these organizations have a good understanding of their legal standing with regards to data collection.
Once in the home, none of this is true. Once the patients are released, they will have to be convinced to participate in the research project, via monetary or other incentives. Patients and their caregivers will need to be taught how to collect the data of interest, or data collection will need to be unobtrusive and/or automatic—which may also mitigate issues of participants fabricating data due to forgetfulness or embarrassment. Moreover, those conducting the research will need to be sure to understand their own legal standing with regards to the research and data being collected.
Nonetheless, the value of the research far outweighs these concerns. Manufactures that fail to study and understand their users in environments outside the clinical realm will likely create tools that are either not adopted by users who have a choice in what they use—think of the wide range on insulin pumps available on the market—or will only grudgingly be adopted by those who have no choice, which may lead to poorer maintenance on the part of the patient who finds these interactions to be unintuitive, cumbersome, or even just too off-putting to deal with.
Insulin Pump: Omnipod Insulin Pump by Alan Levine | Public Domain