Giving medical device development the ‘nudge’ treatment

On the 5th February 2014, the UK Government’s Cabinet Office announced that the Behavioural Insights Team, known as the ‘Nudge Unit‘ had teamed up with the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) as part of a new joint venture which forms a partnership between the UK government, the employees and NESTA.

Established in 2010 as part of David Cameron’s election campaign, the Nudge Unit’s mission was ‘to find innovative ways of enabling people to make better choices for themselves and society‘. To put this in the words of David Halpern, now Chief Executive of the newly formed partnership, “a lot of what we do is about making life easier for people“.

The Nudge Unit, led by Halpern, combines behavioural psychology and economics to enable the general population to make more informed and responsible decisions that in turn make us feel happier and in control about the decisions we make.

We believe this philosophy shares many parallels with our approach to Human Factors research in Medical Device Development. Just like a psychologist aims to understand behaviour and the motivations behind the choices we make – we study user interactions, perception and comprehension during device development to deliver outputs that can enhance the patient experience.

To use the words of Halpern himself, “if you have a more intelligent, nuanced account of how people make decisions, you can design policy that is more effective, less costly and makes life easier for most citizens“. We believe this correlates directly with device design and highlights the importance of human factors research in medical device development. If you understand how people interact with devices you can design products that are safer, more effective, less costly and easier to understand.

For further information about ‘Nudge’ we recommend the original text by Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein entitled: Nudge – Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness. Penguin Books, 2009.

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