Designing an H1N1 vaccination


It is autumn 2009, the H1N1 flu that for a moment seemed innocent is becoming more threatening. From a scientific perspective there is a vaccine available. So why to be anxious? Well, perhaps many of us know the famous line from our childhood: ‘easy… it is not something to be afraid of…’

Especially children seem to be a vulnerable group for this kind of flu. And, as any parent and doctor would agree, the majority of children is afraid of vaccinations. This adds unnecessary stress and time to the procedure for every stakeholder. To be honest, the current procedure is quite terrifying; the unattractive moment of a syringe piercing the skin can hardly be improved.

What designers can do is enrich the experience surrounding a syringe. Instead of focusing solely on the product, I argue to focus on the entire vaccination experience. By this we are not asked to re-design a syringe, but to get involved in designing elements of ‘trust’ and ‘confidence’ in the procedure. The syringe itself only appears on stage at the last moment and should be part of this experience. Easily said, but how to do it?

Currently most information about vaccinations is targeted to the parents; they decide what their child will go. Why not start the adventure for the child here? Communicating a challenging story they are going to experience; starting a journey in which they have to conquer a dangerous villain. Next stage in line is the waiting room; a tedious place packed with anxious children. Couldn’t we give them a compelling drawing/puzzle to continue their adventure? This would easily reduce the tension. As grande finale, every story should have a compelling end.

Syringes are of course dangerous items. For safety reasons they are used only once. Yet, this also creates an opportunity. Children should be able to brag how brave they were for getting such a vaccination. Why not design a syringe in such a way that it breaks down a wearable button after usage? This also covers the safety aspect. It clearly shows that the child conquerred the vaccination and now can show off to friends, family and other children on the playground. It is a tangible artifact directly linking to its personal experience.

By synthesizing perspectives of different stakeholders, design can improve the experiences of everyday healthcare interactions. Dot Kite uses storytelling to structure its activities and deliver a coherent experience. We are looking forward to share our stories with you and elaborate on interesting discussions.

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