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Wearable medical monitoring devices

Wearable medical monitoring devices: Design to inform clinical appraisal

Research Centre
Art and Design Research Centre

Date
2009 - ongoing

The R&D team's challenge was to design a device that was simple to use, comfortable to wear, yet accurate and robust in service

Tomorrow Options produces micro-electronic based products for the healthcare markets. The company identified a need for an improved system for diagnosing diabetic foot disorders and approached Design Futures to work with them on a project which was at the concept stage, 'WalkinSense'.

'WalkinSense' is a portable device which provides quantitative data relating to weight distribution, which complements the clinician’s observation and analysis and helps them to prescribe the best medical interventions and to assess the effects of treatment. Design Futures' brief was to design the physical parts of the device and to resolve issues associated with the placement and repositioning of the sensor net to ensure accurate feedback for clinical appraisal.

Sheffield Hallam University's fast developing cross-disciplinary expertise in the field of design in health and wellbeing combined with Design Futures’ track record of innovation and successful product development, meant that Portuguese company Tomorrow Options felt they had found a good fit. Design Futures continues to work closely with the company in taking radical approaches to problems by drawing together multidisciplinary teams including designers, healthcare professionals, software and electronic engineers and marketing professionals.

The design team's user-centred approach was fundamental to understanding how both patients and healthcare professionals interacted with the device. Design researchers employed user-centred design techniques such as developing models and prototypes to elicit consumer and user responses, which informed the design process.

Researchers were able to work closely with the company's research and development team to take the project from investigation of the relevant technical, market and legislative issues, to developing a design specification, working on a range of concept designs, and developing sketch models and prototypes. Design Futures' experience with designing moulded products was important in assessing manufacturing viability. Developmental work was carried out extensively using 3D CAD with appropriate supporting physical models and rapid prototypes to test and prove key elements of the design.

This project aimed to develop a clinical tool that was portable and placed great emphasis on usability. The outcomes have been achieved with a product that is safe, easy to put on and take off, and comfortable for patients to wear for prolonged periods. It is also very simple to operate by healthcare practitioners and provides them with valuable information to support diagnosis.

Since the product's recent launch, the device has been well received by clinicians in Europe and the USA. The potential impact of WalkinSense is enormous; avoiding ulcers and amputations has immense benefits for the welfare and quality of life of people with diabetes and will significantly reduce the costs to healthcare providers.

Following on from the WalkInSense project, Design Futures was invited to work on the design of a second product, 'MovinSense' - a device to help hospital staff to manage patients in beds to minimize or eliminate bedsores.

Researchers involved

Design Futures

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