There is an ad on page F2 of today’s New York Times promoting Samsung’s Healthy Living‘s product line. A question is posed, “Can you find the blood pressure monitor in this picture?” The picture is of a feng shui’d living room decorated with a comfy chaise, floor plant, and a chaise-side table featuring photos, a tea cup, a lamp, and what looks like a small flat-screen clock.

It is, in fact, a blood pressure monitor.

That reminds me of the Magritte painting, asserting that the image “is not a pipe.”

The importance of good design in health cannot be overstated. We need health care products and services to be designed with the user top-of-mind.
“Consumer centrism” is now the buzzword among many of my pharmaceutical, medical device, and other clients these days; I’ve advised these clients on the primacy of design for many years and, still, the opportunity goes largely unheeded.

Amy Tenderich, blog guress of Diabetes Mine, mentioned design in her remarks at the Health 2.0 conference last week, talking about a very slick blood glucose monitor that could echo the design of, say, an iPod. Designers took up the challenge, and we look forward to seeing a commercial glucose monitor that rocks ‘n rolls with the best MP3 players.

Here’s a blood glucose monitor that has some important good design features. First, color — the device avoids the clinical white that lines the pharmacy shelves choc-a-bloc with generic looking monitors. From a functional point of view, notice the font size — it is quite large, which can be very helpful to the diabetic who has some vision impairment. What you don’t see is that it has a built-in voice meter to assist people who are blind. People with diabetes are more likely to be visually impaired than persons without the disease. This is an important fact that should inform a designer’s design. At a price tag of less than $30, it’s really accessible. Watch for more good designs in the diabetes space, because the segment has substantial unmet demand which brings with it opportunity.

In the meantime, companies targeting the consumer health space should borrow design inspiration from sources outside of the health care box. Visit the Museum of Modern Art (in person in NYC or online) for some lightbulb moments.

Don’t think that good design is just for consumers in developed countries. Check out the LifeStraw, a personal, portable water purification device that costs $3 and saves millions of lives. Now that’s great health design with an ROI.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Switched-on health consumers are looking for tools and products that support us in our personal health missions. Act like a consumer-goods company, not an old-school health company. Make it fun and colorful and even entertaining. The ROI will follow.

Sources: Samsung’s Healthy Living site (http://www.samsunghealthyliving.com/), Diabetes Mine (http://www.diabetesmine.com/), LifeStraw (http://www.lifestraw.com/), Museum of Modern Art (http://www.moma.org/)

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