Residential telemedicine device

Telemedicine and industrial design is growing at a phenomenal pace, perhaps spurred on by the growth and maturity of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector. The scope and usage of the term telemedicine is contested, often used interchangeably with conceptions such as mHealth and eHealth. However, in its simplest form, telemedicine concerns the provision of health care at a distance.

A key driver of what constitutes telemedicine is the scope of a diagnosis, and the conditions that prescribe who or what qualifies to carry out such diagnosis. Similar to the definition of telemedicine, this is contested and varies globally. In South Africa for example, private telemedicine initiatives have been withdrawn due to their models being considered unethical or being in competition with doctors.

I was approached by an international firm to provide industrial design consulting on a telemedicine device intended for countries whose legislation permits remote residential diagnosis. Unfortunately, as the above image illustrates, the project remains confidential and visual details cannot be revealed. However, I am able to provide some insight on what made the telemedicine industrial design process unique.

The overarching industrial design requirement was to ensure that a hampered and dual operation was possible. In other words, a doctor would need to carry out a remote diagnosis with the aid of a sick patient. This placed an emphasis on clear and hybrid ergonomics, where the patient could easily position the device in the required orientation, and either document or display data to the remote doctor.

A second industrial design requirement was to enclose four diagnostic technologies in a small enclosure, and in a manner that clearly differentiates their capability and usage. This was an initial and iterative exercise, where the industrial design and electronic design phases cycled throughout the development process and, in doing so, finding novel design solutions that could be technically achieved.

A far more subtle industrial design requirement, was to visually position the device as a high value item. The challenge of such a requirement, was to ensure that in creating a high-value aesthetic, the patient was not in turn intimidated by the device, either when in operation or by side-effects from usage.