Does this technology make me look fat?

While all deaths are tragic in their own way, one could argue that a child dying from a reversible condition (such as asthma or a severe allergic reaction) is especially painful. The invention of the EpiPen changed the lives of so many people. It made it possible for individuals with hypersensitivities to make their way around the world, knowing that they had a life-saving device in their pocket.

As critical as EpiPens are, it seems that they suffer from the same fate as regular writing pens. It seems that the person who needs it, or the people around, don’t ever have a pen when necessary. These devices are relatively small and just too easy to forget. They don’t sit anywhere comfortably. Your pocket is meant for your iPhone or other electronics, and they stick out, and will easily fall out, of your shirt or jacket pocket.

Considering that the epinephrine [or adrenaline] that is contained in these devices, saves lives, it is reasonable to put up with some fashion discomfort. But a company (that I have no connection with) decided to change the shape, or the form-factor of the classic EpiPen. In doing so, they may very well have made EpiPens far easier to carry and thus far more ubiquitous. And it is fair to say that with easier access to EpiPens, more people will be saved from acute conditions that respond to epinephrine.

The company, called AdrenaCard , has effectively turned the round EpiPen into a credit card sized device, as shown below.

In this form, the AdrenaCard can be kept in a person’s wallet, or far more comfortably in a regular pocket. This is the kind of situation where one can even forget that they are carrying the device because it is relatively comfortable and is [hopefully] rarely used.

The indications for using this device would be the same as for any EpiPen. Teachers, firefighters, police officers and of course urgent care providers could all more readily carry such a device and administer life-saving aid at a moment’s notice.

This, by the way, is a perfect example of what I consider genius. The EpiPen has been around for a long time and its issues, in terms of its physical format, have been well known for just as long. Yet this company came up with the idea of breaking the rules and simply reformatting the container. The medication is the same, the mode of delivery is the same, but the container has effectively been put in a vice and squeezed down to a flat surface. This change of form-factor makes all the difference. But it was only now that developers actually implemented the change.

A good friend of mine told me of an ancient story whereby the author of an ancient document noted that a particular group of people were obsessed with cleanliness. The same author also noted that this group was relatively free of disease. But the author did not make the connection between these two facts. Although today, we are aware of bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause disease, and we are also aware of the fact that washing can reduce the transfer of disease, clearly the connection was not self-evident. And unfortunately, far too few people still wash their hands even in hospital settings. And yes, this is disgusting.

Seeing connections between apparently independent issues is the mark of genius. I will once again mention Steve Jobs, whose unique ability was primarily to visualize connections that other people did not see, a priori. In the design of the various products that he produced via Apple, he was constantly thinking about the look and feel of the item. At the time that the iPod was introduced, there were lots of other MP3 players already on the market. But he managed to find a form-factor and design that spoke uniquely to the millions of people who purchased Apple products.

The iPhone, which is still not even 10 years old, changed people’s perceptions of what it meant to be a mobile phone. It wasn’t enough to simply combine certain features into a single brick of technology. The idea was to design a piece of art that people wanted to carry around. On top of that, they got a beautiful visual experience and the functionality of both a music and movie player, on top of phone technology. And of course, with connectivity to the Internet, the entire world was now in a person’s hand. It was brilliant.

The ultimate lesson in all of this, is that we are all still very human. And that means that the way we feel about something, decides how we will interact with it. If a life-saving medication tastes bad, people will tend not to take it. It’s not poison  and it won’t kill them. But no matter what the benefit, they will even subconsciously avoid taking the dose. Change the format and/or the taste, and you suddenly have a winning product.

I recently saw a type of speaker where the upper portion magnetically floats over the base, and constantly rotates. I am not a “speaker” person and the old box speakers that I presently have, suit me fine. But I will tell you that I was very tempted to purchase this mag-lev speaker. I could easily justify it by saying that the reviews were very positive, and I could expect even better sound from my computer or TV, if I used this type of speaker. But the truth is, the only reason I considered purchasing it was because of the way it looked, and the way it made me feel [too cool for school].

Form-factor is a major issue these days. When a new phone, phablet, tablet or laptop comes onto the market, one of the first issues discussed is how it looks and how it feels in the hands or on the lap of the user. This of course has nothing to do with the capabilities of the device. But if a new phone has an edge to it that is uncomfortable when being held in a hand, the phone won’t sell. If the colors of the device induce a feeling of nausea in the user, the device won’t sell. Actually, jumping back to the levitating speaker, I was concerned that having such a device in my house would cause me to constantly feel dizzy. I have absolutely no idea if this is true, but just the possibility also gave me pause when considering purchasing the item.

So that’s the message for today. Whatever you’re designing, or building, think about how it makes people feel. Does a person wearing your device feel empowered, or embarrassed? Does the application you designed have written text which is too difficult to read, unless you expand the screen? Once again, while none of this has anything to do with the actual functionality of your product, it can make or break the success of your company.

Maybe, as patronizing as it sounds, doctors should continue to say to their patients “how are we feeling today”. Maybe if the doctor is able to truly empathize with the way the patients feel, the doctor will be more apt to treat the patient more quickly and more professionally. Empathetic doctors that care about how they make a patient feel – well, I can dream.

Thanks for listening.

About the Author
Dr. Nahum Kovalski received his bachelor's of science in computer science and his medical degree in Canada. He came to Israel in 1991 and married his wife of 22 years in 1992. He has 3 amazing children and has lived in Jerusalem since making Aliyah. Dr. Kovalski was with TEREM Emergency Medical Services for 21 years until June of 2014, and is now a private consultant on medicine and technology.