Universal solutions sought to address patient needs

Daphne Allen

January 5, 2016

5 Min Read
Universal solutions sought to address patient needs



Paul Marshall, senior packaging engineer for Ethicon Endo-Surgery, will share his redesigned wheelchair packaging for the iGlide by Independence Technology, also a member of the J&J family of companies.

Any package design that leaves patients out is just decoration. That’s the message Patricia Moore of Moore Design Associates would like to convey to designers of healthcare product packaging. With baby boomers now into middle age and beyond, “More patients need creative assistance with packaging,” she argues. “Packaging design has become tantamount to independence and autonomy.” Moore, who has consulted for several large drug companies, is one of several design experts scheduled to speak at the upcoming Universal Design ’06. Hosted by Michigan State University’s School of Packaging, the conference will be held June 19–21, with an additional workshop on June 22.

Credited as one of the founders of universal design methodology, Moore isn’t advocating a “one size fits all” approach, she says. “There are products for difference audiences and at difference price points, of course,” she admits. “But there is a need for design that addresses the distinct needs of all people throughout the life span.” Moore became personally aware of the needs of the elderly, for instance, when she disguised herself and lived as several different elderly women in the ’70s and ’80s. “The consumer isn’t broken if he or she has arthritis,” she says. “Designers need to be sensitive to a full range of needs.”

Another speaker, Joseph A. Koncelik, adds that designers need to consider both normal aging and disability. A retired professor from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a professor emeritus from the Department of Industrial, Interior, and Visual Communication and Design from the Ohio State University, Koncelik will discuss normal age changes in regard to sensory modalities and physical changes and disabilities.

“Even at 40, people experience normal age changes, such as hearing and sight changes,” he explains. “People are more sensitive to glare, and their color perception changes. Eyesight shifts toward the red spectrum, and blue can be harder to see.” As people age, he furthers, they begin to experience physiological changes, such as a lessening in muscular ability and a loss of finger-tip dexterity.

Given these changes, Moore says, senior adults and others often face tremendous difficulty when managing their medications, so designers need to come up with a creative array of delivery mechanisms. “It may not be a bottle anymore,” she says. She points to transdermal patches, nasally inhaled drugs, antiseptic-permeated bandages, and calcium-fortified orange juice as recent examples of drug-delivery creativity. Designers could look to other markets for inspiration.

Healthcare package designers must also consider the needs of pharmacists. “Chain pharmacists are pressured to fill 60 scripts an hour,” she says. Moore says she kept this in mind years ago when helping drug companies redesign pharmacy container labeling. She and her team suggested printing graphics of the actual tablets or capsules on the containers. “The graphics served as redundant cues, and they reduced mistakes,” she says.

Moore is quick to point out that elders aren’t the only ones in need of better packaging design. “Somewhere, consumers are struggling with packaging right now,” she says. “We need a little help from the designer.”

Koncelik agrees that the needs of the aged and disabled aren’t the only ones that should be considered. Designers should “get to the folks in the 55-years-and-older group,” he says. “The majority of them are doing OK on their own. Their independence must be maintained.”

Paul Marshall, senior packaging engineer for Ethicon Endo-Surgery Inc. (Cincinnati), argues that universal design principles can also be applied to medical device packaging, even for packages created for the hospital setting. A certified packaging professional (CPP) through The Institute of Packaging Professionals and a graduate of MSU and Cincinnati State, Marshall won the Ameristar and World Star awards for packaging innovation in 2004. “Our primary customers are nurses and doctors,” he says. “Often, they are scrubbed up and wearing latex gloves, and they can lose dexterity. Ergonomic issues come into play.” Ethicon Endo-Surgery is focusing on making packages easier for these “customers” to open and use, he says, for “less fumbling around.”

Marshall helped another Johnson & Johnson operating company, Independence Technology, redesign packaging for its wheelchair, the iGlide Manual Assist Wheelchair. “The company wanted to ship wheelchairs directly to patients for self set-up using Fed Ex. We kept the customer in mind, in this instance persons with disabilities, designing a package almost twice as small as the original and accessible by people in a wheelchair.”

The previous package required the package opener to “lean over a 3-ft-tall box and lift out a 60-lb wheelchair,” he explains. “We geared the package so that it was completely accessible from the side.” Marshall will explain the redesign of the iGlide wheelchair package during the conference.

Other conference speakers relevant to those involved in pharmaceutical and medical packaging include:

• Gerry Gunderson, partner and vice president of engineering for Quality Tech Services. He will discuss user-focused design for medical devices used in an operating arena.

• Clay Robinson, senior product engineer for Rexam Closures. He will be discussing emerging materials and techniques that have the potential to affect closure design.

• John Bitner, an industry veteran recognized as an expert in child-resistant, senior-friendly packaging and currently director of packaging development at Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. He will discuss inclusionary design and aging and will offer his pharmaceutical perspective.

Information regarding the 2006 conference is available at http://www.universalpackage.msu.edu. The event will be held at MSU’s James Henry Center in Lansing, MI.

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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