An Open Letter to Steve Jobs

Big news this week, Folks. Apple Inc. has sold its 100-Millionth iPod. Ah, those perfectly aesthetic little high-tech devices for enjoying your music, yes. Which gives me an idea… Why, oh why, do consumers everywhere get the most “insanely great” little MP3 player, while we whose lives depend on medical devices get the clunky stuff of yesteryear? It occured to me that this is never going to change unless we call on the Gods of Consumer Design to champion our cause. So… I have penned an “Open Letter to Steve Jobs” asking him to tackle the medical device design conundrum on our behalf.

What do you all think? Would you, could you, sign your name to an appeal like this to the Big Man of Consumer Design-ism?

Dear Steve Jobs,

I’m writing to you on behalf of millions of people who walk around wired to little tech devices and won’t leave theIpods_3 house without them. No, I’m not talking about the iPod — and that’s the point. While your brilliant product line enhances the lifestyle of (100) millions, I’m talking about the little devices that keep us alive, the people with chronic conditions.

Let’s talk about diabetes, the disease that affects 20 million Americans, and I’m one of them.

Whether blood glucose monitor or insulin pump, thanks to the achievements of medical device companies, we can now live a normal life by constantly monitoring and adjusting our blood sugar levels.

But have you seen these things? They make a Philips GoGear Jukebox HDD1630 MP3 Player look pretty! And it’s not only that: most of these devices are clunky, make weird alarm sounds, are more or less hard to use, and burn quickly through batteries. In other words: their design doesn’t hold a candle to the iPod.

Most people on this planet can’t agree on much, but most do agree that Apple knows how to design outstanding high-tech devices. It’s your core expertise. It’s your brand. It’s you and Jonathan Ive.

We are, of course, deeply grateful to the medical device industry for keeping us alive. Where would we be without them? But while they’re still struggling with shrinking complex technologies down to a scale where we can attach them, hard-wired, to our bodies, design kinda becomes an afterthought.Old_glucose_monitor

This is where the world needs your help, Steve. We’re people first and patients second. We’re children, we’re adults, we’re elderly. We’re women, we’re men. We’re athletes, we’re lovers.

If insulin pumps or continuous monitors had the form of an iPod Nano, people wouldn’t have to wonder why we wear our “pagers” to our own weddings, or puzzle over that strange bulge under our clothes. If these devices wouldn’t start suddenly and incessantly beeping, strangers wouldn’t lecture us to turn off our “cell phones” at the movie theater.

In short, medical device manufacturers are stuck in a bygone era; they continue to design these products in an engineering-driven, physician-centered bubble. They have not yet grasped the concept that medical devices are also life devices, and therefore need to feel good and look good for the patients using them 24/7, in addition to keeping us alive.

Clearly, we need a visionary to champion this disconnect. We need an organization on the cutting edge of consumerComputers_back_then_2 design to get vocal about this issue. Ideally, we need a “gadget guru” like Jonathan Ive to show the medical device industry what is possible.

What we need here is a sweeping change in industry-wide mentality — achievable only if some respected Thought Leader tackles the medical device design topic in a public forum. We therefore implore you, Mr. Jobs, to be that Thought Leader.

We have begun by brainstorming a number of actions that you and/or Apple could take to jumpstart this discussion:

* Sponsor a contest by Apple Inc. for best-designed med device from an independent party, and the winning item will receive a makeover from Jonathan Ive himself

* Conduct a “Med Model Challenge”: the Apple design team takes several existing medical devices and demonstrates how to “pimp” them to be more useful and cool

* Establish Apple Med Design School – offer a course on consumer design concepts to selected engineers from leading pharma companies

We need a creative mind like yours to help change the world, again. We, the undersigned, call upon you to take action now.

Yours Truly,

DDD (Digital Device Dependent)

———— END ————-

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133 Responses

  1. Riva Greenberg: Got a Great Diabetes Product Or Application Idea? Apply Here « Daily News

    [...] began hosting an annual design challenge two years ago, quite to her surprise, when she posted an open letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs. She called for the gurus of consumer design to help revolutionize design [...]

  2. Dan Lock
    Dan Lock March 4, 2010 at 10:17 am | | Reply

    There are already people (like me) working on medical device usability. The problems here is that medical devices are not consumer devices – the level of testing required is much higher AND the market is much smaller. If your iPod or iPhone crashes (and mine have, several times) it’s no big deal. If your medical device goes down it could be really serious.

    That’s not to say progress isn’t, or can’t, be made. I wouldn’t bother asking Apple to help – they don’t have any reason to get involved in such a risky area and open themselves up to litigation etc. You would do better to lobby the device manufacturers and ask them to invest more money in usability. We have the ideas to make these things better but it isn’t easy when big pharma does not always want to invest in it!

    1. k tedford
      k tedford January 28, 2012 at 5:58 am | | Reply

      A contact lens is now being worked on to take glucose readings – it needs to be able to wirelessly send to cloud like the withington scale and back down to pc, iphone etc to an app that can estimate insulin needed along with ability to take pic of food eating – this food app is already available on iphone then if you wear pump send that wirelessly. LETS DREAM BIG want this during my granddaughter’s life span

  3. Citylab » Blog Archive » Charmr: diabetes devices

    [...] da una lettera aperta che una paziente diabetica, Amy Tenderich, ha scitto a Steve Jobs, pregando il CEO di Apple di [...]

  4. Diabetes Mine 2010 Design Challenge | A Sweet Life

    [...] began hosting an annual design challenge two years ago, quite to her surprise, when she posted an open letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs. She called for the gurus of consumer design to help revolutionize design [...]

  5. Diabetes Mine 2010 Design Challenge is Open! « Pharma 2.0

    [...] in the design of tools used by diabetes community. The competition all started as a result of a letter Amy posted on her blog in 2007 to Steve Jobs.  She voiced what many in the diabetes community felt about their pumps , pens and monitors:  [...]

  6. Rob Loughrey
    Rob Loughrey March 25, 2010 at 12:33 pm | | Reply

    Sign me up! We need a facebook group so we can get the millions of names required to really make someone notice!

  7. KPSS
    KPSS April 27, 2010 at 4:36 am | | Reply

    nice letter but Jobs is not read this articles.

  8. A request for a different Apple gadget

    [...] this via Design Observer: An open letter to Steve Jobs with a request for Apple to design a gadget that will save lives. An insulin pump. The problem is [...]

  9. What kind of diabetes device would you like to see on the market today? | News 4 Diabetics

    [...] hit the market, and in the throwback 2007 days, I remember Amy Tenderich of Diabetesmine, writing an open letter to apple’s Steve Jobs Imploring him in his ingeniousness maybe create a slick device for the diabetes community ala the [...]

  10. What kind of diabetes device would you like to see on the market today? | News 4 Diabetics

    [...] hit the market, and in the throwback 2007 days, I remember Amy Tenderich of Diabetesmine, writing an open letter to apple’s Steve Jobs Imploring him in his ingeniousness maybe create a slick device for the diabetes community ala the [...]

  11. What piqued this week…
    What piqued this week… June 30, 2010 at 7:58 pm |

    [...] Diabetes Mine, a blog covering diabetes, this week put out an open letter to Apple (aka Steve Jobs) to design a better Insulin Pump. Well actually, the call was for a competition to design a better [...]

  12. 50 Best Diabetes Blogs | Nursing Schools.net

    [...] with diabetes, from what to eat to what to read and everything in between. Recommended posts: "An Open Letter to Steve Jobs" and "Teens with Diabetes: Freedom is Their Secret [...]

  13. vic
    vic July 22, 2010 at 8:28 pm | | Reply

    ironic that Steve Jobs now has to wear an insulin pump, no???

  14. FirstCallMedical
    FirstCallMedical September 12, 2010 at 8:39 pm | | Reply

    wooo.. nice letter man. I was just wondering are these big companies focusing only entertainment industry or will they also work for medical industry.

    —-
    Medicine Jobs

  15. Jm Pocard
    Jm Pocard September 14, 2010 at 9:22 pm | | Reply

    Hello, i’ m nurse I would propose a other solution for monitoring glycémia and all data about health. I don’t know how to write Steve Jobs.
    thank you

  16. dvla
    dvla September 23, 2010 at 7:06 am | | Reply

    I would love to think Jobs read this but I am not sure he did. I thought he would get on board with all his kidney problems.

  17. Ottawa Video Production
    Ottawa Video Production September 23, 2010 at 9:24 am | | Reply

    I also don’t think meter makers really don’t care about input from their customers but if someone did look out they would make a fortune

  18. John Mitchell
    John Mitchell November 29, 2010 at 3:07 am | | Reply

    Thank you very much for a really interesting resource!

  19. haberi
    haberi June 25, 2011 at 2:25 am | | Reply

    idea is great . some of my friend already using it. And they are satisfied from the results.

  20. Recent business news
    Recent business news June 25, 2011 at 2:39 am | | Reply

    i want to use this application and searching more details about it. your post helps me. Thanks for it.

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    Patriots Jersey August 15, 2011 at 8:32 pm | | Reply

    I also don’t think meter makers really don’t care about input from their customers but if someone did look out they would make a fortune

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    [...] innovative company that designed iBGStar for Sanofi-Aventis. The AgaMatrix guys have followed my push for iPhone-ish diabetes devices from day one. And now that they’ve actually created the first-ever medical device that actually [...]

  23. Julie
    Julie October 6, 2011 at 12:10 pm | | Reply

    Wow. Smart thinking!

  24. Aaron
    Aaron October 18, 2011 at 6:04 pm | | Reply

    Cheers to a great visionary who stayed ahead of the curve and kept the world guessing as to what he would come up with next!

  25. RN to BSN
    RN to BSN October 18, 2011 at 8:48 pm | | Reply

    Thanks to the man who took technology to the next level. May his inventions live on forever!

  26. Darence
    Darence January 4, 2012 at 7:28 pm | | Reply

    Unparalleled accuracy, uenquovical clarity, and undeniable importance!

  27. k tedford
    k tedford January 28, 2012 at 5:55 am | | Reply

    A contact lens is now being worked on to take glucose readings – it needs to be able to wirelessly send to cloud like the withington scale and back down to pc, iphone etc to an app that can estimate insulin needed along with ability to take pic of food eating – this food app is already available on iphone then if you wear pump send that wirelessly. LETS DREAM BIG want this during my granddaughter’s life span

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  29. Kumar
    Kumar August 8, 2012 at 8:50 am | | Reply

    I believe you have got Apple a new direction to innovate on. Moreover Apple leads the industry or sector wherever it starts its process. Great thinking and excellent writing.

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    [...] In April 2007 I penned an “Open Letter to Steve Jobs,” which reverberated around the mainstream media and blogosphere. It was a rally cry to apply [...]

  31. Rethinking diabetes management and care | Scope Blog

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  32. People with diabetes use iPods. | Island in the Net

    [...] Tenderich, author of the Diabetes Mine web log, wrote an open letter to Steve Jobs requesting his help in getting diabetes device manufacturers to incorporate more industrial design [...]

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