How confident are patients at using their drug delivery devices?

Team Discussion

Multiple authors

As part of our report into healthcare in the year 2030, we asked 2000 patients in the UK and US how confident they were at using drug delivery devices. We wanted to understand how confident people felt about using different types of devices, such as inhalers, injectors or patches.

We’ve conducted many user trials all over the world on behalf of clients and have seen first-hand how patients don’t always use medical devices correctly because the design of the device and its instructions for use present a cognitive or physical challenge that some users cannot meet.

So, how confident were patients about using different device types for the first time? How much support or training would they like? What format should this support take? And importantly, how does this match doctors’ perspectives?

Excerpt: What support levels do patients need?

In order to reduce costs, there are many in the industry who see patients self-administering more medicines. In theory, this relieves the burden on healthcare systems, professionals and infrastructure but it increases the emotional and physical burden on patients.

It is clear from the figure below that patients are confident of their own abilities when it comes to using medical devices. In most cases they would happily use a device after just one demonstration, with some feeling as though they require no help at all.

However, inhalers, especially Pressurised Metered Dose Inhalers (pMDIs), are frequently used incorrectly by patients despite their significant self-confidence in their ability to pick up an inhaler and use it straight away without any help. The doctors surveyed clearly did not agree with patients.

Patient vs. doctor – how much support is required by drug delivery device type?

(key findings highlighted with grey backgrounds)

How confident are patients at using their drug delivery devices?

It is interesting to compare this level of patient confidence with the opinions of specialist doctors who are far less confident in their patients’ ability to quickly understand new medical devices.

Typically, they feel that patients require between two and four ‘sessions’ to be competent with each device type. With a needle and syringe and wearable pump, some doctors are even leaning towards more than four familiarisation sessions.

Further interesting findings; 11% of patients don’t think they can treat themselves with a needle and syringe at all, and 21% of patients are unsure when it comes to wearable pumps. This may be down to the low number of pumps used in the market and a lack of familiarisation with these platforms.

“I find the patient confidence levels very interesting, and a little alarming. Correct procedure of use for a drug delivery device is rarely intuitive. Instructions for use often resemble risk management documentation, full of lists of Do’s and Don’ts. We need to improve both if patients are going to be able to rise to the challenge of increasing self-administration.”
– Diane Aston-James, Managing Consultant

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