Patients managing chronic conditions are often self-administering therapy, so their success often rests upon how well they understand such therapy. Education is essential.
When it comes to educating patients, product labeling has limitations, says Paul Sullivan, business development for Noble. "Patients don't always read labeling or understand it," he explains.
Instead, Noble, a product development company with expertise in design and manufacturing, "looks at how to enhance learning and build it into deliverables like packaging," says Sullivan. The goal, he adds, is to make "patients feel as comfortable as possible when administering a product."
To determine how to best instruct patients on using a given therapy, Sullivan says it is important to "not make assumptions. There are unique ways in which patients learn."
Noble starts "looking at design earlier," says Sullivan. "We speak to clients and think about packaging and training early. We allow the patient to show us what they need, and we can come up with multiple solutions early for testing."
For instance, Noble once got involved in a project studying a patient who had been taking an arthritis drug for more than one year and had seen no improvement. "We videotaped the patient during administration and identified several patient errors," explains Paul van der Pol, director of research and development for Noble.
Noble's solution for educating patients on product use is to incorporate "multisensory learning technology" into the packaging, van der Pol says. Such technology includes multiple sensors, tactile features, and auditory stimuli. "If you present such technologies at the right time and sequence, science shows that patients learn faster and remember information longer," he says.
Van der Pol says the approach is like "building a computer inside the package. We've built techniques into packaging that can monitor and detect patient behavior. And when you start monitoring, you develop a solution that is truly smart. We can correct errors that patients make. It is very dynamic."
Van der Pol believes that such an approach can benefit those patients managing conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, asthma, and cystic fibrosis. "These patients may have disabilities or dexterity issues, so the package design must take those into consideration."
Smart packaging can especially help those patients administering therapies with longer and longer intervals between doses. "Patients can rehearse use and build a routine without errors, which can reduce discomfort and anxiety during drug use," he says.
Sullivan points out that Noble's solutions are "more than just reminder packaging. They are also teaching and coaching and ensuring that each use is consistent every time." And van der Pol says: "We build value into packaging so it can be used over and over again."
One of the most challenging types of administration is what van der Pol calls the "wet injection."
"The most common mistakes are with wet injections," he says. "We've done a lot of work with sensors. We can detect it with sensors, and we are working to put some of the sensing into the package."
"Combination products in general are a good place for us to get involved and help," adds Sullivan. "The more room for error, the more anxiety."
"We've done a lot of work with pharma companies on combination devices," says van der Pol. "Our solutions have been part of usability studies with autoinjectors and inhalers.
"We have a good understanding of the mistakes patients make as a result of these usability studies," he continues. "We are using such studies on our own devices to see how they can help reduce errors."