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Personal Care – Health Management

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The UK’s rapidly ageing population has put extra strain on the healthcare system, with older patients requiring more and longer treatments in hospital and access to residential care. For older people to manage their own health and medication more effectively in their own homes is important – as demand for healthcare soars but budgets come under pressure. Designers have a key role to play in enabling people to manage their own health.


Where medication is required, it is important to adhere to prescriptive guidelines for such a course of treatment and dosage.

When a course of medication is not followed it is known as non-compliance and it is estimated that 40% of hospital admissions, and a quarter of care home admissions are due to people’s inability to take medication as it has been prescribed.

A strict medication regime is tricky to fit into a regular lifestyle, particularly if the user is not familiar with the new routine. Here, medication pack design must acknowledge this and be based on an understanding of patient’s behaviour and wider context.

Many of these issues can be resolved through working with people and understanding the issues through inclusive design.

Barriers to medication compliance

There are a number of barriers that prevent older and disabled people from correctly following guidance to taking medication. These include:

  • packaging that cannot be opened due to limited dexterity
  • medication can not be swallowed
  • medication that may involve injections, creating a ‘fear’ factor
  • instructions that can not be clearly read for people with visual impairments
  • instructions that can not be clearly understood by people whose first language is not English
  • instructions that are not clearly communicated for people with learning disabilities
  • complexity in drug regimes such as taking a medication at a certain time or taking multiple medications
  • forgetfulness in dosage amount at certain times
  • effects of medication are not felt and therefore course is prematurely stopped
  • impractical to carry medication around.

Barriers to active health

An active contribution to managing health often involves targeting interventions before an illness or condition may arise. Design has a pivotal function within this preventative approach, with campaigns to encourage walking (and so reduce heart disease) and take eye tests both prominent recently in a drive to keep older people healthier for longer.

Many older people may experience barriers that prevent them from taking part in healthy activities. It is estimated that up to 70% of adults do not take enough exercise. In many ways exercise has become associated with gyms and specialised equipment whereas activities such as walking can be considered quality active behaviour.

In addition, increased exercise such as walking also decreases car use, whilst increasing social interaction. Thus the combined effect of exercise and increased social contact can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression as well as improve general health and fitness levels.




‘I like to manage medication myself, because you’ve got to have some kind of dignity’.

‘I tend to stick to one pharmacist, they know me, and they know my problems’

‘Because medication is a regime in your life you can’t treat it as a big ogre, you have to make a friend of it. And you can’t make a friend of something you can’t manage’

‘It’s all about making friends with the pills’

‘Blister packs I find great difficulty with. Even some of the bigger ones are too tough. Sometimes I can push through the little pills, but I can’t pick them up’

‘Walking is the nearest activity to perfect exercise’

‘They [EpiPens] need to become an invisible partner rather than an inconvenience, part of peoples’ everyday activities providing reassurance, not complications’

‘Health is being connected to people I trust, the feeling of being supported’

‘You don’t lose your brains when you lose your sight.’

Case studies

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Foot print: a campaign for walking the way to health

This project developed a visual communication campaign to encourage people at risk from heart disease to take regular exercise.

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Stepping Stone: Designing an Inclusive Pedometer

This project designed an easy-to-use pedometer as part of a campaign to encourage people at risk from heart disease to take regular exercise.

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The design of a simple-to-use communication device to help those with early dementia to remain independent.

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Life Circle

This project explored the design of a communication and visual coding system to encourage compliance in taking medication.

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Save your sight: a campaign to improve eye health

This communication design study developed a campaign to encourage people over 45 to take their eyesight more seriously and to take regular eye tests.

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Circles of Care: a new approach to healthcare based on social networks

A study looking at design for the social network of friends, family, work colleagues and neighbourhood facilities that can support better personal health.

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Which pill when

A project to develop medicine packaging that aids compliance in taking prescribed drugs.

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A project to rethink the standard sticking plaster and its packaging to enable one-handed use.

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Pluspoint: an auto-injector system for anaphylaxis attacks

This design project developed a radically new auto-injector that can deliver a life-saving shot of adrenaline to anaphylaxis sufferers.

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Graphic Guidance: information design for patient safety

This communication project explored the impact that better information design guidelines could have on making the prescription blister pack safer to use.

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Giving drugs safely

This study created design guidelines to help reduce medical errors in the use of infusion devices.

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Time 2

The project developed an interface device to remind older people to take their medication.

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Memory Clinics

This project explored the provision of Memory Clinics as a walk-in proactive service on the high street that champions and monitors the maintenance of mental acuity.

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Eating, Design and Dementia: improving dining in care homes

This project developed a range of tableware to enable people with dementia to eat and drink with more dignity.

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One Shot: design guidelines for single-use medical devices

This study created a set of design guidelines for the packaging and labeling of single-use medical devices such as catheters, dressings and syringes.

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