As part of my participation I was invited to be on a panel about design – “Breaking Out of the Clinical Silo into Lifestyle Thinking.” You don’t have to spend much time in the diabetes (online) community before you hear people’s preference on their products and devices – what they love, tolerate, or wish they could change.
From my perspective as a consumer, I know what I want and I wish that I could get someone to design it. I may not know all the right words to use in the technology talks or how to code anything, but I know when a device works in my life and when it doesn’t.
That is why I was so surprised to hear one of my fellow panelists say that he would never hold another focus group during his design innovation process. He believes consumers are unpredictable and don’t actually know what they want. [Side note: Are we consumers or patients? Both? Which is better?]
Maybe it is because I am approaching the topic AS a consumer, but I don’t think it is the fault of the consumer if the designer or the innovator misses a issue or doesn’t get the answers they want. I have been in several focus groups, and it seems more often that they are asking the wrong questions.
I remember as recently as this past summer sitting in a focus group with another person in the diabetes community. A company was showing us their latest and greatest device that was designed to take advantage of the latest and greatest technology. The other member of the DOC and I basically looked at each other, looked at the rep, and asked why in the world we would want a device that did what they were “selling.” Sometimes just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should.
When I got my first pump it came with a meter that wirelessly sent results to the pump. I had great insurance at the time but for some reason, they did not cover the brand of test strip needed. I read online at the time that this brand of strip was not all that reliable so it didn’t bother me that much. A few years (?) later I found out that the pump company was switching to a more popular brand of meter to wirelessly connect to the pump. I was excited because it was the brand of test strip I was already using and what looked to be an identical meter.
The first day, and maybe even the first time, that I used the meter I noticed that there was a significant difference. The new meter was missing a backlight. I can’t say for sure that the company never talked to a patient or that there was never a focus group during the product development, but I find it extremely hard to believe that anyone with diabetes would have neglected to mention how important it is to be able to see to test in the dark.
One of the participants in the summit discussion described how most diabetes innovation takes a one-off approach. Companies change one thing at a time and rarely revisit that “problem” and later innovations tackle a different “issue” with the device. However, a solution to one problem causes a problem in another area. The lack of a backlight described above is one example.
Another example would be a pump company that moves forward to integrate their pump with a CGM but removes the functionality of their meter remote – the biggest marketing feature of their current model (hypothetically of course). I believe instead that innovation should look at the entire system instead of neglecting components as changes are made piece by piece. As one participant stated it, “is this still awesome or do we need to start over?”
It probably doesn’t require being a person with diabetes to design every aspect of a diabetes device – I don’t need to know how my pump reservoir works, just that it does – but doesn’t living with the disease every moment of the day for the rest of my life mean that my input counts for something?
P.S. There will not be a Best ‘Betes Blogs for the month of December. Instead, I will try to put together a wrap up of all the great posts that have been nominated throughout the year. We will start again with the best of the January posts.
P.P.S. Like the Christmas touches on the blog? Ho Ho Ho!