Just a Poke? When Medical Packaging Is Self-Defeating

I had some interesting conversations at MEDTEC Europe last week in Stuttgart, Germany. User experience with sterile medical packaging came up a few times, and one supplier of medical packaging materials I spoke with had one observation that gave me pause.

 Norbert Sparrow

When opening medical packaging in a clinical setting, nurses and practitioners often are rushed and may look for ways to speed things up. In some cases, they unseal the packaging and let the device drop onto the tray rather than lift it out. The potential for missing the target, so to speak, is very real.

More problematic, though, is the common practice of poking the device through the material rather than unsealing the packaging and removing it. If you look at what is happening under a microscope, the supplier told me, you will see an explosion of particles as the device shreds through the material. It's a rather disturbing end point for a product and packaging system that have been carefully designed to reach the user in a sterile condition.

EN ISO 11607-1 states in section 6.2.3 that "the sterile barrier system shall allow the product to be presented in an aseptic manner," which is what chevron pouches are specifically designed to do. Manufacturers devote substantial resources to designing packaging with continuous, homogeneous peel-open features. Yet, it is all for naught as users find it more expedient to push the device through the material.

One could imagine a design solution that makes it impossible to circumvent the proper opening procedure. But that would probably not sit well with users, who have become accustomed to doing it their way.

What do you think? Does the poking practice warrant a rethinking of sterile packaging design? And do you have any anecdotes to share on this topic?


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Norbert Sparrow, Editor in Chief, UBM Canon

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