Dr Joseph Cafazzo – TEDxToronto – on better medical device design and living well

This short video (below) is an overview of a larger (20 minutes) talk given by Dr Joseph Cafazzo at the recent TEDxToronto event in October 2012. In his talk he gives some examples of the ways in which improvements in medical technology design (with input from people with varied backgrounds) – and a better recognition of the role that patients play in their own self-care – can improve the management of long-term conditions while also improving quality of life.

His first example focuses on developments in home haemodialysis which trains patients to dialyse themselves away from a hospital and parks a large machine in their house for the purpose. The patient still has to insert two large needles into their arm on a daily basis (usually nightly basis) but this reduces the number of hospital visits and lets them dialyse much more frequently than the hospital visits would permit – it also costs less.

Many people would find taking this level of responsibility for their care quite daunting, including Cafazzo’s own father who, although technically minded, was put off the prospect of home dialysis in its early days when the technology just seemed too complicated.

Encouraging the tech-friendly TED audience to think about creative ways of making design better and more patient-centred he gives another example from the world of Type 1 diabetes and teenagers, perhaps not known for their enthusiasm for self-care.

With an iPhone or iPad Touch app (called ‘Bant’ after Frederick Banting who discovered insulin in Toronto in the early 1920s) and a bluetooth enabled blood glucose meter the 20 participants in the pilot study (see further reading) were encouraged to test their blood glucose levels more regularly and received iTunes redemption codes to buy music or other apps as a reward.

“Dr. Cafazzo is a biomedical engineer who has spent his entire career in a hospital setting. By observing healthcare delivery from the inside, he works on ways to keep people out of hospital by creating technologies that allow for self-care at home. At the same time, Joe and his team are the biggest critics of poorly designed health technologies and their ineffectiveness. He surrounds himself with whip-smart, and passionate engineers and designers who are creating technologies that are spirited, modern, people-focused, and hopefully, suck less.”

Dr Cafazzo’s full talk can be seen between ~5h30m and 5h50m here but the transcript of the short introductory video (which is embedded above) follows.


“How is a good idea transformed into a great product? Ideas are cheap; it’s the transformation of ideas into the real world that really affects people’s lives.

What are the ingredients that make health technologies great?
Technology that is almost transparent to the patient – that they become almost unaware that they’re using it, it becomes part of them, improving their lives.

I think about this transformation a lot. I think about what ingredients are needed and it always comes back to the people who create these technologies. They come from disciplines that you would never imagine. One would expect that great health technologies are created by doctors and engineers, nurses and programmers but there are crucial ingredients that you may not have ever expected. The human factors expert, the illustrator, the social scientist, the industrial designer, the behaviouralist. Many people who build these health technologies never knew they had the capacity before they started doing it.

And I think that’s the most exciting aspect of building health technologies – discovering and motivating talented people who never realised they had the ability to transform patients’ lives.”

Source: Dr Joseph Cafazzo – Lead, eHealth Innovation, University Health Network

Edit: 8 November 2012 – the section of the full video in which Dr Cafazzo is speaking is now available and is embedded below.

Further reading
Cafazzo JA, Casselman M, Hamming N, Katzman DK and Palmert MR (2012) Design of an mHealth App for the Self-management of Adolescent Type 1 Diabetes: A Pilot Study Journal of Medical Internet Research Vol 14(3): e70



This entry was posted in health / medical, non CHI+MED, videos and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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