We Interviewed the Designers Behind the Winning Project
Can you describe the personal patient pack in one sentence?
The ‘Personal Patient Pack’ is a product service system which allows single use devices to follow the patient throughout their healthcare journey and on average, reduces waste by 67%.
Why do you think your design field matters now more than ever?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have realised how crucial medical device design really is. This is evident with open source projects like the Open Sourced Ventilator project (OSV) in Ireland. As designers, we are used to working in teams to solve problems whilst reaching out to others who know more. As medical device Designers, we have learned to think in a proactive, creative manner while complying with regulations, market needs, user needs and key insights.
The design and development of a medical device is the most crucial phase for its success. From recently finishing an MSc in Medical device design we realise that a loosely defined medical device, will not make it to market.
How has COVID-19 affected, shaped, or evolved your practice?
With the recent lockdown, we have learned to work from home freely on our own. For our final Masters projects, both projects completed by Máire and Hannah were tackling the challenge of helping to overcome the pandemic from the healthcare perspective. We had no choice but to learn how to design in and for a crisis environment. Being able to connect via video calls has been an amazing resource for us and meant that we could interact with people who may not have agreed / had time to meet in person.
Why is it so important that we put sustainability in the line of thinking when we design medical healthcare devices?
There are many sectors where product life extension can be a challenge, such as for some products in the healthcare sector, where infection control is a priority. Recycling or incineration is currently a go – to solution – making the chances of contamination low.
If sustainability design principles are implemented at an early stage in the medical device development, it can really solve huge sustainability issues at the user end.
Medical device designers have the responsibility to know how to design for sustainability and to always question how products are currently being designed, manufactured and implemented.
It is vitally important that this teaching is brought into the university level education system, so this mindset is instilled at an early stage in one’s career.
The Personal Patient Pack utilises this thinking and highlights that when coordinated with already-existing cleaning systems, it is possible to re-design single use healthcare products into multi-use ones, reducing the amount of waste produced per patient or treatment.
What’s next for your design practice?
Designing for the circular economy is a complex phenomenon which requires the adaptation of existing systems and the implementation of new ones. It is so important to look holistically at these sustainability problems in order to make real change in the area.
Being young, female entrepreneurs in the medical device design field is relatively unheard of. We have the ability to approach problems in a new and creative way by pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. This project has shown us that if we put our minds to it, we can really make a change in the sector so this is only the beginning for us.
In our experience to date, Máire and I have learned that some medical design companies can sometimes on occasion, lack the personal understanding required to design for a specific need. It is time to consider the minorities in our society by implementing solutions through design! The process of engaging with users and uncovering their life struggles can be challenging on many levels but especially when finding a way to positively impact their life, it can be the most rewarding and satisfying feeling! Being able to apply this empathy in our careers is one of our core values as designers.