product designer


Arthritis Simulation Gloves: Testing Medical Packaging

A quick catch-up...

I decided yesterday that it was time to take a much needed leap and run down the route of handling medication. I spent the day looking at some of the problems surrounding medical packaging, I noticed the following reoccurring themes:

Organisation- I looked at current organisation systems and products already available (e.g. pill boxes), and noticed the majority of them are quite small and fiddley- making it potentially difficult for users with arthritis to access without dropping and spilling the contents.

Independence- Going back to the pill boxes, I recognised users are often reliant on others organising and redistributing their medication- especially those with Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. I also noticed medical packaging is difficult for those with

Distribution- I looked at the distribution of medication and forgetfulness in two possible directions. The first being a reminder for the user to take their medication and the second being something that would prevent them from accidentally taking more than required.

Accessibility & Ease of Use- I recognised that a lot of medical packaging has been designed with the intention of keeping people out. While measurements like child safety caps serve their purposes, they also create barriers for elderly users and people with arthritis etc. 

Out of these themes, the one I found most interesting was medical packaging in terms of accessibility and ease of use for people with arthritis and visual impairments. I thought a good starting point would be to put myself in my user’s shoes and try to understand some of the difficulties they face when using medical packaging.

What did I do today?

I spent the afternoon testing containers found in my medicine cabinet using arthritis simulation gloves developed by Cambridge University’s Engineering Design Centre. I chose six different containers pictured below and tested how they open, close and distribute medication.

 The chosen six for testing 

The chosen six for testing 

Test 1

  • It's physical shape/ form was rather awkward
  • I had some difficulty gripping the lid
  • It was challenging to open- it was difficult to hold, push and turn all at once
  • I felt like I had little-if not no control over the amount of tablets dispensing 

Test 2

  • I had difficulty getting a grip of the lid
  • I found it easier to open when leaning on a surface because I could use my weight to push and turn the lid- although this might be difficult for a user with arthritis in their shoulders and upper arms 
  • I didn't feel in control and feared I was going to drop it

Test 3

  • The lid was too narrow to get a grip of
  • The clasp needs to bigger- i found it difficult to open with my thumbs 
  • I felt like I had to use forced strength to open it, making the contents spilling inevitable
  • I didn't like not having control over the amount of pills being poured out 

Test 4

  • I liked that this container was taller- it made it much easier to hold
  • Perhaps a chunkier form would be more comfortable and allow more grip
  • I didn't have control over the amount of tablets being dispensed

Test 5

  • It was too small and fiddly 
  • I found it difficult to hold the bottle and twist the lid at the same time
  • I felt like I was going to lose grip and spill the contents 

Test 6

  • I liked that the hole for dispensing the tablets smaller- I felt like had better control over how many tablets I was pouring 
  • The container needs to be much bigger to allow for better grip 
  • The clasp needs to be bigger to allow better grip and control over the lid

Thoughts so far...

  • Redesigning medical containers to be more accessible and useable by people with arthritis etc
  • Designing a bottle or container that reminds the user to take their medication when needed
  • Explore the physicality of medical packaging and create something more suited for the elderly
  • Create a self locking container that helps tackle forgetfulness and reduce the risk of accidental overdose

What's next?

After sharing today's work with my lecturer Chris, we agreed that this would be a good time to start generating rough prototypes. He suggested hacking old containers and using their locking mechanisms on my own models. I will be spending tomorrow doing this while creating lots of blue foam prototypes. 

Rebecca Williamson