LIVE FROM HEALTHPACK: Designing medical device packaging with passion

Push for packaging to be involved throughout medical device development; look at other industries for design inspiration, advises Stryker Instruments presenter.

A screenshot from Jennifer Goff's presentation at HealthPack 2015.
A screenshot from Jennifer Goff's presentation at HealthPack 2015.

So, you’re involved in medical device package design and you know you have to meet a myriad of user needs, FDA and regulatory requirements, testing and sterilization processes, time-to-market deadlines, etc. So there’s no reason to seek out additional packaging design considerations, right?

Think again.

A men’s body wash package that looked as if it would have been appropriate sitting in a garage served as an inspiration to Jennifer Goff, CPP, Associate Manager, Packaging R&D, Stryker Instruments. She explained to the HealthPack 2015 audience that her husband was the perfect marketing target for the packaging of a product that contained a pleasant lemon scent that also appealed to her.

In her presentation, “Medical Device Packaging’s Story Told Through Design Control,” Goff advised attendees to draw inspiration from packaging used in markets and industries beyond the medical device world. In fact, she discussed a team-building exercise in which team members would invest the time to go through a retail store and evaluate packaging—everything from healthcare products to cosmetics to food—and determine how their appeal could potentially be utilized in packaging medical devices.

Empathic design was also touted by Goff. Defined by Wikipedia as “a user-centered design approach that pays attention to the user’s feelings toward a product,” she explained that incorporating user needs can emanate from Voice of Customer inputs, customer complaints, and empathic design. “These may be things we don’t know,” Goff said, “but could, for example, help us understand that we need to design individual cavities within a device tray to hold separate screws so they don’t get lost in the surgical theater.”

Goff added, “Packaging needs for the end user to tell its story. In the case of medical devices, we need to watch how a nurse opens a device, how he or she uses it in the operating room, and determine the challenges the package gives the user. We have to remember that nurses have considerable influence in hospital purchase decisions.”

Packaging’s seat at the table

One recurring theme Goff reiterated throughout her presentation was the need for packaging to be involved in the medical device development process from the very beginning, something that isn’t always the case.

“Often packaging is pulled in once the project has already been started,” said Goff. “A lot of times packaging is an after-though whereby R&D says, ‘we can put the device in a pouch and then in a box.’ We need to educate management teams and let them know that packaging can add value to the overall user experience. In some cases,” she pointed out, “packaging can create a competitive advantage for our company in the marketplace.”

Packaging considerations are necessary throughout the process of getting a device to market, she noted, from designing a package “just like R&D designs the device,” to helping develop usage instructions.

Risk management must be involved, particularly as it relates to sample size. And packaging must also include other management teams during the process, be it marketing, R&D, operations, etc.

Bottom line: Packaging must get involved with project teams early, “Push to be involved rather than getting pulled in,” Goff emphasized. “We want to provide the best product and package to the customer. Be passionate!”

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