You Actually Don’t Want Nurses to Think Too Much About Your Package

Understanding user needs is critical for effective product design, particularly in healthcare. Delays or mistakes could impact health. Events like the upcoming Healthcare Packaging Immersion Experience (www.msu.edu/~hcpie/index.html) hosted by Michigan State University’s School of Packaging and HealthPack offer unique ways to help attendees understand how packaging must ease product use—and never hinder caregivers.

For instance, HCPIE next October 2–3 will present “The Incredible Journey of George: Using the Patient’s Journey to Understand Provider Roles, Expectations, and Needs Regarding Packaging.” The session will “follow” George (a mannequin designed to simulate a human patient) as he moves from one end of the healthcare chain to the other, from “pre-hospital, to pre-op, to the operating room, to post-op, and home healthcare,” says Laura Bix, assistant professor at MSU’s School of Packaging. “We’ll look at the many people who interact with George and their objectives and roles as well as the different influences on what is ideal in terms of packaging and labeling. And an audience member may be invited to be his caregiver!”

I am excited for such a simulation, because it will explore the needs of all users. I have been a caregiver for both my parents, and I know firsthand how much of a lifesaver an easy-to-read label or easy-to-use package can be. And I am not alone. Both my parents were in the hospital recently, for different conditions. I routinely saw nurses working alone at the patient bedside, opening packages to administer an IV or deliver medication or change wound dressings. They used any available surface on which to place sealed packages, used products, and packaging waste. Anything cumbersome or clumsy slowed them down.

A thought came to me, as I watched the nurses work, occasionally pausing to get a better grip on a package or juggling one package with several others in their already-full hands. A good package is one that won’t prompt a user to think twice about it. A user shouldn’t need to stop and think—how do I open this? How do I hold this? Where is the product name or strength or expiration date printed? Users just need to be able to pick up the packaged device or drug and use the product. Packaging needs to be so sophisticated to the point of commanding the least attention.

After writing about packaging for so long, I feel a little silly saying that you should develop packaging that won’t draw too much attention. But trust me—when seconds count in emergency departments, in ambulances, in ORs, and at home—your package should be the farthest thought from anyone’s mind.

 

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