Meet Janet Kelly – visiting researcher at the Co-Design cluster

Janet is an Industrial PhD student at the SPIRE centre for participatory innovation working on a project entitled ‘Innovating with the Pre-Users of Medical Devices. Her research project involves exploring design and innovation methods with the potential users of medical devices, in collaboration with medical device manufacturers Novo Nordisk AS and Oticon AS.

Janet has a background in Product and Service Design, and a Masters of European design from the Glasgow School of Art. During her masters degree she also spent time at Politechnico Di Milano, Italy, and the University of Art and Design Helsinki, Finland.

PhD Project Description :  The Innovating with Pre-Users of Medical Devices Industrial PhD project is a collaboration between Novo Nordisk, Oticon and the SPIRE research centre for Participatory Innovation and  involves two PhD candidates one from an Anthropological background and myself who is from a Product Design background working closely together on much of the research. The project was initiated because both these companies perceived they had a similar problem in that a large proportion of their potential market, people diagnosed with the medical conditions who’s health and wellbeing could benefit from using these treatment devices, are reluctant to begin doing so. For research this posed an interesting question as to how user driven design and innovation processes be adapted to incorporate the ‘pre-users’ of technologies.

The basic idea of this project was then to study and engage pre-users of medical devices in two cases of innovation: that of insulin injection with Novo Nordisk and of hearing aids with Oticon. Both diabetes and hearing impairment are long-term medical conditions that require constant treatment, as they cannot be cured. In the first case, reluctance to initiate insulin treatment, due to stigmatization and other barriers to injections, increases the risk of severe complications later on. In the second case, reluctance to accept and use hearing aids due to stigmatization severely impedes participation in social life and may lead to early retirement from the work force. In both cases, the crucial issue relates to overcoming barriers and expediting patients’ access to a medical device.

The overall project aims are to create an understanding of the barriers inherent in the transition from ‘pre-user’ to user and to develop methods that successfully involve pre-users in innovation processes in order to uncover new product development and business opportunities for the companies. We are attempting to develop an understanding of the motivations for delay for these two groups in the adoption of the technologies, and my part of the project focuses on engaging them in participatory design processes in order to develop design concepts that respond to their specific relationship to the treatment and technology.  I am currently working on an exhibition in order to engage both companies in some of the ideas that have been developed in the project.

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