Personal medical devices, such as auto-injectors for biologics, insulin pens and inhalers, are engineered to allow patients to autonomously deliver their own care. Given their high level of patient involvement, if they are to be successful, these devices must surpass functionality alone to resonate with patients on an emotional level.

To uncover how emotional benefits are derived from device features and subsequently are applied within the patient’s life, research should meet three key criteria.

1. Contextualize research to assess the patient's emotional state

Patient-centric devices offer both tangible and emotional benefits to patients. What is, at face value, a delivery mechanism, can extend much further to inspire feelings of freedom and autonomy. Emotional benefits and barriers need to be captured during research, before they impact a tactical roll out.

  • Fear of needles is top of mind when self-injection is required: Nobody likes injecting themselves with needles. Even nurses who inject hundreds of patients a month shudder at the prospect of doing it to themselves. When a patient has to self-inject with a prefilled syringe, they are actively reminded of both their fear of needles and their status as a patient. Research shows that autoinjectors help patients avoid needle phobia almost entirely and offer a fast interaction so patients don’t need to dwell on their illness.
  • Functional features are associated with positive emotions: Patient-centric devices offer a host of emotional benefits to patients, and specific features of different prototypes may resonate differently at the emotional level. For example, a comfortable sturdy grip that enables a seamless self-injection makes patients feel in control of their self care. In contrast, a delivery mechanism that is overly complex can result in feelings of powerlessness. For some patients, self-injection means freedom and autonomy because they can be treated at home instead of scheduling time-consuming office appointments.
  • Qualitative techniques link emotions with messaging: Emotions can be elicited using interventions and projective techniques, such as word association and laddering. The emotional connections that patients feel toward their devices (like freedom to live their lives and control over their illness) can later play an important role in messaging and communications at the time of launch.

2. Target unmet needs and evaluate training gaps