Q&A with John Lee, MA Student, Umea Institute of Design
Microdialysis is a new procedure; only a handful of equipment exists. These products, however, do not consider all users involved in the procedure, including patients. They certainly don’t consider the full journey endured by any product used to complete the procedure. In winning a Gold IDEA for the Medical Toolkit for Surface-Mount Microdialysis (SMD), a team from Umea Institute of Design has envisioned a group of solutions that do consider the full product journey. Here, one of the team members recounts how the group arrived at an award-winning design:
How did you come to work so closely with the inventor of SMD?
This was a collaborative project between the Umea Institute of Design, Advanced Product Design Program and the SMD inventor, organized by Thomas Degn, head of the department at Umea.
This collaboration included designers from Turkey and New Zealand at a graduate program in Sweden. How did those different cultures and world views impact the design and the design process?
Surprisingly enough the cultural differences between Turkey and New Zealand did not have much impact on the design or the process. Instead, it was our common design belief and philosophies from our past experiences that had the most impact. It's amazing what can be achieved in such a short time period when a couple of guys from complete different cultural backgrounds with different personalities come together with the same goal and expectations in mind. This was a term project of our MA course in Umea Institute of Design, and after the initial research, we both had an aligned vision of need for a complete eco system around the microdialysis procedure rather than focusing on a single area. After few discussions, we agreed to work together as a team for the project.
Since the inventor of Surface Mount Microdialysis never worked with designers before, and we knew the need for communicating the process effectively on how the end result was relevant to the stakeholders needs including patients and surgeons. Also as the inventor was looking for low cost solutions for her to take away and start manufacturing the product, most of the class was focused on low cost solution that were in someways incremental solutions. However, our point of view was to begin from asking the question of 'what solutions would provide best user experience?' with this question in mind we were able to keep the ideas flowing and filter.
Are the problems shipping and using SMD toolkits in surgery similar in every country that performs microdialysis?
Far as we are aware, it is. Currently CMA products are one of leaders in microdialysis industry and we benchmarked with their solutions and also based research with medical staff.
Which set of problems did you begin to solve first: the problems with shipment or the problems encountered during surgery?
There were many problems to solve beyond those two, so the problem solving process became very organic. Instead of focusing on a specific problem, we oversaw the journey of the product from shipment all the way to disposal, its relevance to stakeholders and context. By doing this we were able to ensure the end solution was solving key problems in different phases such as shipment or during surgery, instead of solving a specific problem but creating another.
Tell us about this product’s journey and the unique challenges it faces in storage, shipping and, finally, use in surgeries.
The key opportunities around the package design were identified in two ways. First, we had insider info on catheters being rejected because of damages caused before even being used. Secondly, it was obvious that the current solutions in the market did not consider the fact that the catheter is the most fragile yet the most precious part in the puzzle. On top of this, current solutions did not consider the journey: being stored in the storage, being picked up and delivered to an operation room by nurses, sterile nurses receiving the open package from nonsterile nurse and being passed on to the surgeons. In conclusion, the opportunities were obvious, and we were able to come out with better functional solutions as we did not constrain ourselves from starting with low cost factor.
What challenges did you encounter in working with ceramic to replace the metal typically used in the pump?
We decided to choose ceramic over metal to make this product truly mobile. Current solutions require patients to remove the SMD to have an Xray, CT or MRI scan. Once the probe is out, it cannot be replaced as it has too much risk for a patient’s health. To accurately control the flow rate of the fluid we had to ensure the material does not expand in anyways and had to be very precise, thus the ceramic was a much better option over plastic.
The key challenges we faced are feasibility and accuracy of the ceramic part that occur during the manufacturing process as it is not accurate as machining a metal piece. This is something that requires further technology/mech concept validation prior to definition.
Have you been able to test the toolkit?
This project is still in a concept phase as our solutions still have many unknowns. As mentioned before the principal and theory is there and they were validated by the surgeons and nurses testing our concept mockups. However as it is not an incremental design solution and it requires much more technology research, development and validating prior to any human testing.
Will the toolkit concept be commercialized and produced?
Not at this stage, as the inventor is pursuing for low risk solution with little investment. This could be seen as a vision work for the inventor and be aware of what the optimum solution could be, if there is enough funding for R&D.