Study: Patients Willing to Pay Extra For Easy-to-Use Devices

Posted by tblair on July 5, 2011

A study by Cambridge Consultants found that a majority of diabetes patients would shell out extra cash for user-friendly devices. The study examined people who rely on devices like insulin pumps on a daily basis. Out of 240 patients, 77% said they would likely pay a premium (about $5 more, out of pocket) for a device that was easier to use than what they were currently using. And while 28% of patients who were given the option to choose a device simply went with what their physician told them to use, 21% said that they do their own research and make their own decisions. This is significant, says study author Melanie Turieo, because it confirms that usability, which has not always been a top priority for device makers, is important to patients.

Diabetes patients, she says, might be slightly more accustomed to making their own choices about treatment because there are a lot of options available, says Turieo, who consults with device makers about human factors. However, she says the number of respondents who reported actively making their own decisions was “surprisingly high.”

“They go out there, they look at the different options, and they have a lot more input to that decision than I think we realized,” Turieo says.

Melanie Turieo says it’s important for medical device makers to consider their users when designing products.

Device makers, Turieo says, are often not thinking as much about usability as their customers are. “The traditional thinking about medical devices has been, these are things that people have to use; they don’t have a choice,” she says. While device makers think that “it would be nice to make [devices] easy to use,” Turieo says that they often take the attitude that the devices simply “are what they are.” Even 10 years ago, Turieo says, patients would have been thinking along the same lines. But now, that’s changed, influenced by the same forces that have dramatically reshaped much about how we live our lives: an onslaught of cheap, high-quality technology and access to the Internet.

One of the key lessons of the survey, Turieo says, is that there is likely a link between compliance and ease of use.

Regardless of how effective or advanced a device might be from a technological or treatment point of view, it is crucial, Turieo says, that it be easy for people to use. “It’s not just [about] the technology,” she says. “If [a technology is] too burdensome, if it doesn’t integrate into people’s lives, if they feel like it’s driving their lifestyle as opposed to fitting into it, then they’re just not going to use [it],” she says.

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