Experience how your packaging will be used

Daphne Allen

January 10, 2018

6 Min Read
Experience how your packaging will be used
Will your packaging ease medical device use during an ambulance ride? Image provided by MSU.

The Healthcare Packaging Immersion Experience (HcPIE) does just that—immerses you into settings that simulate how your packaging will be used.

“Medical device manufacturers tend to run tests in optimized conditions,” explains Dr. Laura Bix, packaging professor for Michigan State University’s School of Packaging and one of HcPIE’s organizers. “We hope to encourage people to design packages meant for real environments.”

The first year I attended HcPIE I actually got a little queasy as I watched technicians work in a simulated emergency department. I had to remind myself that a patient wasn’t actually slipping into unconsciousness after a head injury—it was a mannequin. As the participants worked against the clock to diagnose and treat the “patient,” the stress under which healthcare practitioners work became very clear to me—and so did the critical need for packaging and labeling that makes products easy to identify and use.

Organized by MSU’s School of Packaging and Learning and Assessment Center (LAC), HcPIE returns October 12-13 with an even more exciting agenda encouraging audience interaction as they examine emerging healthcare issues. These include infectious outbreaks, the aging of the population, and changing legislation and regulation. “Each of these will be delivered with packaging as a potential vehicle for positive change,” explains Bix, who also serves on PMP News's Editorial Advisory Board. “It is exciting to me that topics such as these that have been viewed through disparate silos have the potential to be creatively combined for the greater good.”

This year HcPIE will feature a “high-intensity simulation with a potential infectious disease exposure.” It will then be followed by a panel discussion exploring concerns in outbreaks/infectious disease and packaging featuring the following participants:

•   Brent Davenport, Firefighter, Paramedic, Instructor, HAZMAT Team Leader, Technical Rescue Specialist

•   Amy Crisp MSN RN

•   Melissa Gray MSN RN

•   Kim Loomis MSN RN

Next, a geriatric patient care simulation will explore the challenges of using packaging in home health environments, followed by “PechaKucha style” presentations from:

•   Erin Sarzynski, MD, MS Assistant Professor, Michigan State University, Gerontology; speaking about challenges related to an aging society and healthcare

•   Debra Lindstrom, PhD, OT, Professor, Western Michigan University; speaking about physiological changes in the aging and their impact on navigating packaging

•   Linda Keilman, DNP, GNP, BC Assistant Professor, Gerontological Nurse Practitioner; speaking on challenges related to home health environments with aging patients: "How can packaging help or hinder care?"

The event’s keynote speaker will be Commander Mary E Brooks, RN, BSN, MS, U.S. Public Health Service, who currently serves as Senior Lead Reviewer FDA/CDRH/ODE/DAGRID/GHDB. She’ll be sharing lessons on the importance of human factors and packaging with a view from the trenches. Also speaking from FDA will be Shannon Hoste, MSSE, MSM, RAC FDA/CDRH/ODE/DAGRID/HFPMET, who will discuss the agency’s new guidance, “Applying Human Factors and Usability Engineering to Medical Devices,” and its implications for packaging. 


HcPIE participants gowning up to better understand doctors' and nurses' experiences. Image provided by MSU.  

Being an academic/industry collaborative, HcPIE also provides a stage for emerging packaging students. Several students will update the audience on work that previous events and the support of many industry partners have enabled. Additional assistance from BCBS Michigan Foundation, Rollprint, Cardinal Health, Sencorp, NVT, and Oliver-Tolas make this work possible, Bix says.

These student presentations include:

•   Objective evaluation of package design factors and asepsis - Paula Perez (PhD Student)

•   From training to practice: How do healthcare providers learn about aseptic technique and what technique(s) do they employ? - Tony Trier (PhD Candidate)

•   Objective evaluation of context on opening affordances: Designing for high stress environments - Jiyon Lee (PhD Student) 

Bix explains that Trier has found differences in opening depending on pouch size. “We originally thought the differences were due to the material curl typical with a large pouch, but biomechanics researchers suggested that the larger pouch forces more handling, increasing the chance of contamination,” she says. "Perez seeks to determine which of the two is more impactful and expands this line of research by studying the relationship between peel geometry, opening forces, and rates of contamination."

Sencorp has donated a heat sealing plate that fits into MSU’s tray sealers, allowing Perez to prototype different seal patterns. “She is 3-D printing shapes for molds to make seal silicone gaskets that will be mounted into the tray sealer for sealing pouches,” Bix explains.

Lee will present triaxial vibration data that was collected throughout the mid-Michigan area in the back of an ambulance, Bix says. "This data will enable her to accurately replicate motion during simulated procedures in a prehospital context. Her intention is to observe opening practice with packaging in the pre-hospital setting to those employed for the same procedures during an OR simulation. Ultimately, she will investigate the effect of context on opening approach. In the event that high-intensity contexts (such as the ambulance) induce different approaches for opening, these 'coping strategies' will be leveraged in an attempt to design packaging that works optimally in varied contexts of care."  (Watch this YouTube video demonstrating what's encountered during an ambulance ride.)

Such student studies hold promise for the industry. “Each student project is a brick in a building we’re trying to build for improved health outcomes,” says Bix.

"The work that Michigan State is doing around human factors and packaging is so very important to the healthcare packaging industry," says Dhuanne Dodrill, president of Rollprint Packaging Products, one of the event's sponsors. "In this highly regulated market, we tend to focus on the product that we are packaging. We want to ensure that, at the time of use, the product is undamaged, its efficacy has not been compromised, it is uncontaminated, and its sterility is assured. However, in our efforts to meet all of the regulatory requirements, we often fail to properly consider the needs of the user of the package. To ensure the best patient outcomes, we really need to take a much more holistic approach when designing packaging.

"As a platinum sponsor of the HcPIE event, Rollprint is very pleased to be able to support Michigan State’s research," continues Dodrill, who is also speaking during the event. "We are delighted that this event provides an opportunity for packaging professionals to learn more about their outstanding work."

Attendees will also hear from other packaging experts from medical packaging converters and medical device manufacturers as well as experts from other industries that could inspire new approaches. For instance, another PechaKucha-style session entitled "Current and Projected Trends in Medical Device Packaging" will include rapid-fire presentations of trends impacting packaging: 

  • Global Trends in Healthcare Packaging: Daphne Allen

  • Trends in Converting: Dhuanne Dodrill

  • Trends in manufacturing and packaging of medical devices: Paul Marshall

  • Trends in the hospital: CSuite Official

  • Panel Discussion

The event also helps healthcare practitioners understand the effort that goes into developing medical packaging. “The healthcare professionals who participate in our conference love the opportunity to interface with the designers of medical devices and packages,” says Bix. “They don’t always understand the variables that come into play. Building bridges between researchers, practitioners, designers and packaging personnel to improve health outcomes is our ultimate goal.”

Says Dodrill: "This is conference is unique in the industry in that it couples scientific research with illustration through simulation to provide an incredibly powerful learning experience. Attendees have the opportunity to hear from FDA, faculty, students, and industry experts about research and trends in packaging and, in particular, on the interface between people and packaging. This is reinforced through simulations where we see actual doctors and nurses using our packaging in real world situations. The conference is thought-provoking, enlightening, and hopefully helps us all design packaging that translates to better, safer patient care." 

For a complete agenda, please visit http://www.packaging.msu.edu/hcpie/agenda

2016 sponsors include Rollprint Packaging Products (Platinum level); Sterimed by ArjoWiggins Healthcare and Neenah Performance Materials (Gold level); and Oliver-Tolas Healthcare Packaging, Cardinal Health, and TEQ (Silver level). 

About the Author(s)

Daphne Allen

Daphne Allen is editor-in-chief of Design News. She previously served as editor-in-chief of MD+DI and of Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News and also served as an editor for Packaging Digest. Daphne has covered design, manufacturing, materials, packaging, labeling, and regulatory issues for more than 20 years. She has also presented on these topics in several webinars and conferences, most recently discussing design and engineering trends at IME West 2024 and leading an Industry ShopTalk discussion during the show on artificial intelligence.

Follow Daphne on X at @daphneallen and reach her at [email protected].

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