Improving Exercise Devices for People with Rheumatoid Arthritis through Design
Dr Jyri Kermik, Faculty of Arts, University of Brighton
Dr Inam Haq, Brighton and Sussex Medical School
Prof Jonathan Woodham, Faculty of Arts, University of Brighton
Working in the context of design for wellbeing this design-led transdisciplinary research project seeks to improve the health and well being of people living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Working closely with colleagues from Brighton and Sussex Medical School, this research will develop design criteria, and a series of conceptual prototype devices, to improve the efficacy and efficiency of therapeutic exercise devices offered to people with RA.
Working with an established group of patient volunteers, the research draws upon existing medical science research on RA, behavioural science research on patient adherence, and persuasive design theories, to inform research development. New knowledge will be developed through a series of Focus Group studies that examine the following key questions:
- What designable factors, specific to people with RA, contribute to patient adherence to therapeutic exercise recommendations?
- How can these factors be embodied into objects designed for long-term everyday use?
- What differences do 'active' and 'passive' modes of engagement offer to persuasive design criteria for long-term therapeutic exercise?
AHRC Doctoral Student Award – 3years of funding for full-time study (2009-2012)
This is not an ‘industrial design’ or ‘product design’ study, or indeed, a ‘product development’ exercise; the study does not seek to produce new ‘products’ as evidence of research outputs. This is a design research study, conducted from the point of view of a maker, which seeks to extend our understanding of the nature of patient concordance with long-term exercise treatments and to redefine the role of ‘design’ within collaborative design/health research.
Design outcomes will be developed in two areas. Firstly, the study will develop design theory through the development of design principles/criteria for improving user engagement with exercise devices for long-term use. Secondly, the study will develop a series of interactive experiences/objects which further extend our understanding of the research.
Each design outcome is likely to be abstract in form and will seek to extend, question and communicate our understanding of the research. It is through the development of these 'embodied' objects that future product developments could be derived. The development of product oriented devices, suitable for comparison with existing products, will be the focus of future studies.
The evolution of this study takes place through a number of research phases. The first phase involves identifying the patient needs through Focus Group consultation. During the Focus Group discussions, challenges with currently available treatments were identified along with patient perceptions of the treatment process. Secondly, an innovative photographic ‘Cultural Probes’ research exercise - which invites participants to engage with ‘novel interaction techniques’ designed to provoke inspirational responses and provide qualitative data that illustrates the lives and memories of participants was used. The Cultural Probes exercise helped to illuminate the ‘tacit’ understanding of RA that patients with the condition have in relation to their interactions with objects, environments and other people during normal day-to-day activities. Used in conjunction with Focus Group studies this method provided detailed contextual information about the user group which will in turn be used to identify and prioritise, key, design specific, factors for consideration in future design developments.
A systematic ‘coded analysis’ of research data was adopted to provide a grounded approach to data analysis that is both rigorous and robust, and which identified factors that are relevant to patient concerns. The Cultural Probes study offers further insights into the objects, environments and behaviours of patients living with RA. The aim of this data is identify further insights into the ‘real life’ factors of RA - including social influences and practical constraints of user lifestyles and the intricacies, nuances and contradictions of engagement and motivation.
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