Using Our Senses To Create Functional Design In Med Tech


fivesensesSeveral weeks ago I saw Jinsop Lee’s TED talk titled ‘Design For All 5 Senses’. In less than 10 minutes, the speaker discusses a design project he did for a clock. The design he created was well conceived but the concept he thought most innovative went a step beyond using visual cues. It could not tell you the precise time of the day but instead it used scent cued by the sunlight heating several different bottles of scented oils to let you know what time of the day it was. From this tipping point he explores why the concept was so intriguing. More importantly, he describes why this concept was so effective. His point: designs or experiences that engage as many possible senses at the highest level will have the greatest impact.



This talk came to my mind when reading a recent article about color changing syringes to warn healthcare workers that it had previously been used. Even something as simple as an unambiguous visual could improve patient safety on a daily basis. While the concept of using visual aids to improve the quality of healthcare is not new, perhaps more attention should be made to how creative we are on the user experience. Consideration must be made to creating tools, products, devices and procedures that incorporate ways for us to improve workflow and not rely solely on our labile memories. Perhaps these tiny adjustments on a large scale could help reduce costs and errors in medicine.


What I liked about Lee’s video is the concept of moving beyond even visual cues and incorporating more than one sense into our ‘alarm systems’. This could be the catch to modifying behavior. Perhaps incorporating smells, adjusting tactile sensations and utilizing more significant (but hopefully not more annoying) sounds into our daily movements can remind us to wash our hands, pick up a new instrument, finish the last step of a procedure or check the right medication before administering to a patient. Our computer systems aim to do many of these things but are not always available at the bedside to help with some of our easiest made mistakes. Perhaps moving away from the computer and incorporating non-electronic means into some of these tactics should be emphasized in medical design.

Photo Credit: joaoloureiro