Usability: Is There a Cool Factor?

Do the aesthetics of a medical device's packaging dictate its usability?

Adele Graham-King

I pondered this question while thinking about emergency adrenaline pens recently, as it brought back vivid images of Pulp Fiction, and how we administer medication in panic situations. It made me think: For devices used in an emergency such as the EpiPen® or Jext®, does it really matter how it's packaged, so long as it works? Or -- because it's so important that we get it right and that it's easy to use, does that make the packaging of the device even more important because we simply must not get it wrong?

Both of these adrenaline auto-injectors come with primary and secondary packaging. They are meant to be stored safely, and child resistant, but yet accessible to children in an emergency.

If you consider the packaging and the instructions to use it, this isn't a simple task. And because injecting adrenaline can't be practiced without using an auto-injector, or without the risk on injecting the active ingredients, how can we ensure that the devices are fully understood?

For example, the instructions on the Jext® usage video state:

Step 1: Take out medication from a flip-top case
Step 2: Pull off the small cap
Step 3: Push firmly into outer thigh until you hear a 'click'
Stage 4: Hold for 10 seconds until the full dose is dispensed

And here, immediately, there are four apparent areas for error -- not being able to access the auto-injector, having difficulty with a small cap, hearing the 'click', and potentially being able to count to 10. Indeed, how long does it take to count to 10? How do you know you have received the full dose? This is ultimately important as you can't take it away and re-apply as the needle retracts, and if you only have one pen, you can't repeat the dose.

The devices are both clinical in their appearance -- they have no aesthetic appeal. Does this matter? Should we design these products so that people want to carry them around? Or should we make sure that they stay obviously ugly as a statement of importance?

What does the community think about aesthetics for emergency medicines?

Stay relevant as a medical device packaging engineer

Adele Graham-King, Blogger

No votes yet