And the discussion of how to make medical devices more like iPods marches on! … Don’t miss yesterday’s piece at the UK’s Guardian, which actually tried to contact Apple for comment (no comment forthcoming). Also see the coverage at MacUser, and BrandWeek’s take, which suggests that Steve Jobs ought to start by revamping hearing aids. A heck of a lot of buzz created for the medical-cum-lifestyle design cause, what say?!
On the diabetes design front, we may have found the champion we seek in Stanford Postdoctoral Fellow Joel Goldsmith, previously with Medtronic’s diabetes division, who says:
“What’s funny is that these companies tend to think that people with diabetes are somehow not the same people as those buying iPods and Nintendos and Razor phones. Why would they feel any less strongly about design issues? If they have to live with these devices 24/7, why wouldn’t they feel even stronger about it?”
I had a long talk with Joel yesterday, and this guy has got it goin’ on, I tell you! He’s a UCLA MBA with extensive industry experience, who’s just spent a year with Stanford’s “incubator” Biodesign Innovation Program. The program puts small groups of engineers, physicians, and students to work on identifying “unmet clinical needs” and proposing one or more solution prototypes. His group this year focused on orthopedic issues, but his heart still lies in diabetes care, he says.
Here’s what Joel had to say in reaction to our Steve Jobs design appeal:
“When I was at Medtronic, I cited the iPod many times as what we should be aspiring for. It’s not only attractive and aesthetic, but also incredibly easy to navigate, and can be discreetly worn… It’s become a lifestyle product — an extension of people’s identity, and it’s a pleasure to use.”
“Apple uses the technology to mask the technical complexity of its products. That’s what they do so well. So it’s an intuitive experience.”
“Back then, it was an uphill battle for me to convince (Medtronic) that what we were selling was not just an insulin delivery device, but a fully integrated diabetes managment system. That concept is not so novel anymore. Medtronic actually has the most integrated system at the moment. I think we’ll see all the companies in this space offering the full set of components — insulin delivery, glucose sensing, software that interprets the data, and the disposable components as well. And then what will differentiate all these offerings is service and support, cost, and especially the form factor, the appeal of the products.”
“I don’t see anyone, with the exception of Insulet, that has placed a heavy emphasis on design. They’re setting an example; it’s not perfect, but a big step in the right direction.”
“Most companies still treat these items as pure ‘medical devices,’ rather than actually as consumer electronics that also happen to have an important medical function. It shocks me that this mindset isn’t more prevalent here in Silicon Valley, where all the technology intelligence is. If I can’t find it here, I can’t find it anywhere….”
Lucky for us, Joel has aspirations to tackle this change. He notes that the obstacles lie not in the technology, which is “all there,” but rather in the old-school mindset and bureaucracy typical of many large corporations. Keep your eye on the start-ups! (Where Joel is likely to land)
Even the big companies are on the move, albeit slowly. For example, Joel did a stint helping a group at Qualcomm Corp. experiment with using the company’s wireless chipsets for application in medical devices.
Editor’s Note: For PWD Mac fans, a reader pointed out that Apple does offer a nice Diabetes Logbook for Mac OS X 10.4 or later versions.