George Ressler – The University of Kansas
Hug is a new system of childhood vaccinations that employs an emerging technology for drug delivery with microneedles. Hug patches are efficient, heat tolerable, and most importantly painless. Hug’s vaccination system creates a stress free, informed experience for parent and child so they enjoy the intimate lifesaving moment together.
George Ressler – The University of Kansas
The emerging technology of drug delivery with micro-needles needs marketing – marketing not only within the medical fraternity but among children and parents as a major change in vaccination practices. An experience which parents dread and children fear can now be transformed into an opportunity for both joy and education. A systems approach combines medical requirements with an understanding of how to reach and involve the child and achieve her cooperation.
1. Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the challenge posed to you? Did it get you excited and why?
The problem I set out to solve relates to childhood vaccinations. The current vaccination system is broken because vaccine cannot reach the areas where it is needed most and no one enjoys their vaccination experience. My challenge was creating a system that was polar opposite from the current system by designing tools to foster a positive user experience for those involved with vaccinations and making vaccines accessible to children throughout the entire world. This complex seemingly impossible problem simultaneously terrified and excited me. I was terrified because of the tremendously large scope and technical nature of a problem in the medical industry. However my excitement outweighed my terror because within this problem was the shimmer of a better future; I could see a world free from preventable diseases where children were excited to get their next vaccination. Instead of taking the approach of incremental innovation which would just improve the current system I wanted to step back and with fresh eyes find new solutions that were truly innovative. I decided that my new vaccination system had to create a user experience that was positive and educational for parents and children and would reach all areas of the globe easily. My project consisted of two systems, one for vaccinations here in the USA and one for vaccinations sent as aid globally. The system in the USA is focused on the user experience for the parent and child while the aid system is focused on efficiency and maintaining patient medical records.
2. What point of view did you bring to the challenge? Was there anything additional that you wanted to achieve with this project or bring to this project that was not part of the original brief?
I took emerging medical technology out of the laboratory and designed a system for its distribution both in the USA and throughout the world as aid. Microneedle technology is currently being developed as an alternative to administering vaccinations through injection. However the current state of the technology in the laboratory is cold and unusable in the real world. With this technology I designed a system of touch points that redefine the vaccination experience for all stakeholders. First I conducted research to explore the problem and gather data from the stakeholders. Then I translated my data from research into actionable insights that fueled the development process. To develop the Hug system I created a brand, a series of products, and two unique services and distribution systems (one for the USA and one for vaccines sent as aid). The USA Hug service is focused on creating an intimate painless experience for the parent and child. In addition to the vaccine delivery patch (Hug Patch), it also includes a children’s book and a stuffed Hug toy that the child can metaphorically vaccinate. The book and toy are tools to educate parents and children about vaccinations and to humanize the process. For the Hug aid system I designed packaging and distribution to maximize efficiency and provide tools to keep better medical records. I went above and beyond the brief of creating a single product by creating a system of products and services to embody my designed user experience.
3. When designing this project, whose interests did you consider? (Discuss various stakeholders, audiences, retailing, manufacturing, assembly, distribution, etc., for example.)
The Hug system was designed to make the life better for the all stakeholders in the vaccination industry and transition seamlessly into the current vaccination system. The most important perspective to me was the end users, or the parent and child. At the center of my development process was the goal to change the current traumatic vaccination experience into a positive one for both parent and child. Surrounding that central goal was the needs of the other stakeholders in the vaccination industry. I worked with the head nurse in charge of vaccination for the Douglas County Health Department to develop a system that could feasibly be adapted in the medical community of the United States. She taught me the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) standards for packaging, vaccination schedule, and together we developed a use case scenario for patients in the USA. Hug in the USA is only half of the whole system, the other half is vaccinations sent as aid to developing areas around the globe. To design the aid system I researched the standards developed by WHO and UNICEF for international shipment of aid vaccinations. I wanted to understand their current distribution system so I could design Hug to fit and improve the existing system. The most critical part of the Hug system is the microneedle technology. I worked closely with the laboratory developing the technology in order to realistically design the patch itself, manufacturing, and lifecycle.
4. Describe the rigor that informed your design. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) If this was a strictly research or strategy project, please provide more detail here.
My primary research consisted of interviews and ethnography. I conducted interviews and surveys with parents to understand their perspective relative to the childhood vaccination process. Surveys were used as a screener for me to choose several parents for in depth interviews. The strongest insight from these interviews was that the current vaccination system is a traumatic obligation for parents. More specifically, other insights dealt with education, parental duty, and pain. Parents did not feel they had the tools to become educated about vaccinations and relied heavily on the advice from nurses. However, parents want to feel empowered to make medical decisions for their children so I knew Hug had to have vaccination education built into the system. Most parents knew they should vaccinate their children without being told so, yet all parents dreaded the vaccination experience because they had to watch their child suffer through an extremely traumatic and horrible experience. The child will not remember getting the vaccination; however the memory of seeing their child in pain will stay with the parent forever. From this research, I knew Hug had to create a painless vaccination experience for the parent and the child. I also interview and observed the nurse in charge of vaccinations for Douglas County. The requirements of the medical community were revealed through this ethnographic research. The insights from the medical community were centered on sanitation and following standards set by the CDC. I followed up my primary research with secondary research. First I looked into all the information published by the CDC. I used their standards to define the vaccination schedule for the Hug system. Heavy research was also invested in understanding the standards set for vaccinations sent as international aid. I immersed myself in the publications by WHO and UNICEF to ensure that the Hug system would blend seamlessly into their existing distribution network. The cornerstone of the entire project was the microneedle technology developed at the Georgia Technology Institute, Laboratory for Drug Delivery. I contacted the lead researcher, James Norman and he provided answers and research documents for all my questions regarding microneedle technology.
5. What is the social value of your design? (Gladdening, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, labor-mindful, environmental, cultural, etc.) How does it earn its keep in the world?
The Hug system transforms a traumatic inefficient vaccination system into a system that creates a positive experience and can be readily distributed to all areas of the globe. To receive their vaccinations children no longer have to suffer through a painful stab. The Hug system allows for painless delivery of vaccination thus creating an opportunity for children to actually enjoy being vaccinated. In the USA the Hug system has tools to educate parents and children about the vaccination process. Additionally, the Hug system is designed to be distributed around the globe, ensuring every child has an opportunity to be vaccinated to the USA CDC’s standards. The Hug aid system is designed to be efficient because the Hug patch comes on a card which is then used as the patients’ medical file. Those Hug cards are then filed back into the box they came in the same way a medical file would be stored. There is no waste because all the packaging becomes the medical record filing system. Another social benefit of the Hug system is the de-skilling of the vaccination process. Medical staff is only needed to supervise the process, not administer the vaccine. This drastically reduces budgets and eliminates potential injury due to unskilled medical staff. The patch creates no medical waste because it completely dissolved into the skin as the vaccine is administered. The greatest benefit of the Hug system is offering painless accessible vaccinations to every child in the world despite which country they reside in.
6. If you could have done one thing differently with the project, what would you have changed?
If I could do one thing differently with this project I would have managed my time better. My mistake was not in procrastination but in spending too much time developing the problem and did not leave enough time to have highly polished concepts. I wanted to ensure that every concept was feasible (technologically and legally) and aligned with creating a positive user experience. Perhaps my scope was too large and I was unrealistic in my expectations of what I could accomplish in one semester. Specifically, I would spend more time finalizing the packaging that contains the Hug patch. For the system in the USA I want to create packaging that uses the minimal amount of material needed for a medical product to still feel safe to the user. My next iterations would take material away and ensure that the packaging was free of composite materials (to maximize recyclability). The Hug packaging for the aid system is clumsy in the execution of form but built atop a solid foundation of concept. I would work the form of the box to create delight in the details, room for customization, and add clear affordances for modularity in the units. Overall the concepts behind the packaging are solid, however the packaging fails to honestly communication the personality of the brand; painless vaccinations.