understanding and redesigning the epipen for users to effectively receive medicine
I was asked by one of my professors to pull out an analog device from our backpacks, and mine was my EpiPen®. We were tasked to solve the issues with the interface so it can meet users needs. Initially, I didn't see too many problems until I started to look closer. I realized that the medicine had been expired for two years. My first thoughts were - How could I have not have known this? What would've happened if I had an allergic reaction and used expired medicine? Why was I not alerted? This began my process of redesigning an EpiPen®.
EpiPen® is an auto-injector for people who have a history of minor to sever allergic reactions. EpiPen® injectors are the most common perscribed epinephrine in the United States for more than 25 years. Using an EpiPen® is the first step to use when having an allergic reaction and then should medicial help.
After reading more, I found it astonishing that there haven't been any updates for the experience when users are having an allergic reaction. Depending on the severity of the reactions, users are not able to see or hear due to the intense shock in their bodies.
Below I researched on understanding the users' actions, as well as medically what is happening to their bodies as they go through an allergic reaction.
After researching, what I found interesting was the 'how', 'what', and 'where':
When one goes through an allergic reaction, you have to understand how they became allergic in the first place. It can be hereditary or environmentally causes. People who have an allergy can find out there allergies by taking skin and blood tests, ingesting their allergen (e.g. medicine or food), or being in the environment with the allergen (e.g. animals, pollen, mold).
Understanding what is being affected is extremely important. Depending on the severity of the allergy or how long the person has been exposed to the allergen can effect how the body responds. The immune system is your body's defense system. An allergic reaction is your immune system responding to something that is bothering your body.
Since your immune system is fighting off the allergen, it will begin to effect certain parts of your body. Depending on the severity, you may have issues breathing, swelling, and hives. This will cause your body to be in 'stress' mode and cause you to have issues handling the reaction on your own.
This raises main concerns for users when they need an EpiPen®. How do you ideate a product that can help users when they have issues seeing or breathing?
understanding the device
Before ideating, I wanted to understand the EpiPen® device. I was trying to understand:
- Features of the device (e.g. needle, device, case)
- How do you inject yourself? Does someone else have to inject the user?
- How users seek medical attention after administering medicine?
- How do I discard the EpiPen® once used?
After viewing and researching the device, I noticed the device currently has the following features:
- The injector lives within a case
- Safety (blue cap) that users must take off in order to inject medicine
- There's lot of information on the device
- Instructions to inject yourself or have someone else inject
- Needle location
- Expiration date and window to see discoloration of medicine
- Amount of medicine (mg)
After researching the anaphylaxis process, there are some flaws to the devices that would prevent the user from getting to their medicine in time. The biggest concerns were:
Lack of medicine discoloration
The medicine is currently clear, but turns to a light yellow. To someone who is color blind or have an allergic reaction there's limited time to look at the color. The user would run the risk of using expired medicine, which could make the situation worse.
Alerting medical and personal contacts
After injecting medicine, users would have to go to the hospitals themselves. What if no one was around as they had their allergic reaction? How do hospital help allergic reactions if some can barely breath or talk at that moment? How much time do users have to seek medical help?
Disposing of medicine
Currently, the device does not inform users on how to dispose of the medicine. Since there is a needle within the device, it is considered a dangerous sanitation issue.
Information on device
There's a lot of text on the device. Depending on the phase or severity of users' reactions, they may not even be able to read or see the information. As well, users would need to practice multiple times to feel confident to inject themselves. There's not time for that. Is there a way for users to be told the instructions as they inject themselves?
Children are the most difficult user to incorporate an EpiPen® into their life. They are still learning the importance of carrying medication on them. Depending on their age, they need help administering the medication (.15mg not .30mg which is for adults) they will use as well.
Users who does not know they are allergic to an allergen yet
Not matter the age, this is a dangerous situation. Symptoms will appear overtime and at first may not be apparent that they are from an allergic reaction. Users will need to seek medical attention and will not have an EpiPen® on them.
Users know they have a severe allergy
Once you've had anaphyalxis once, you're at risk to a more severe reaction. Users that have gone through an allergic reaction, specially anaphylaxis, know how vital an EpiPen® is. They have their own pack and keep it with them. They try their best to stay away from the allergen. These users have consulted with medical professionals before coming in contact with a new object, food, or environment.
There are three type of user personas for this experience. It's extremely difficult to develop users for this project because it's such a wide ranging issue (type of allergy, age, medical history) that needs to be treated differently for each case. For example, based on age and medical history the treatment is different. If someone has a heart issues, you wouldn't want to give them this medicine. If a child was having an allergic reaction, you would need to give the correct amount of medicine because their body not be able to handle a dose you would give to an adult. What they do have in common is the battle of "flight or fight" response. EpiPen® is the vital answer to all their situations.
The biggest issues I noticed were noticing medicine discoloration, alerting medical contacts of use, and disposing of the medicine. I decided that changing the design of the case would be the biggest issue to focus on then pairing the experience with an app. Redesigning the case would allow users to understand when medicine is ready to use and would instruct users how to properly administer the medication. The app allows for the user to add all necessary contact and medical information, as well track lost injectors.
I wanted to make sure both experiences were connected. Users make have or not have their EpiPen® with them during an allergic reaction. So matter where you are the case or watch can help you get in contact with medical and emergency contacts.
I focused on creating the injector to be able to fit into users everyday lives without being in the way, but still easy to locate.
The case has a couple of main features:
- Green button - means the medicine is not expired and good to use
- Red button - medicine is expired and needs to be replaced
- Cap lifts - When using injector, press the green button and the yellow cap will pop open. The top of the yellow cap is a speaker that instructs the user to properly insert the medicine into their thigh. After medicine is injected, the injector syncs with the app on the user's phone to alert emergency contacts that injector has been used.
Apple Watch Experience
As I designed the case, I realized that it would be important to have an digital extension. The watch allows for users to access medical help if they are not around their EpiPen®. Using a smart watch is a great way for users to quickly contact the help they need. Below is a working prototype of what the app experience is like, feel free to test it out.