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    How 3M Health Care designs products with an inclusive lens


    hree female office workers collaborating using Post-it Notes on a wall.

    • In a dynamic healthcare landscape, patients and providers deserve solutions that support their needs. A couple of examples include patients who want more options to heal at home and aging nurses who desire solutions that account for the changes that come with age.

      These are the types of solutions that 3M Health Care designers aspire to create.

      Matt Zabel, design thinking strategy director, 3M Brand and Design, is inspired by how design thinking can help us make products that meet all needs. Something as seemingly simple as packaging can have major implications for the end user. Clear labeling, text and color choices could help an aging nurse see important information quickly.

      Matt believes the best place to start is empathy.

    Q: What’s empathy got to do with it?

    • Zabel: From a design perspective, we’re always trying to understand our end user and identify their true needs across an end-to-end experience or workflow. Once we have a working definition of our user, we think about their emotional and functional characteristics. On an emotional side we ask: What are they thinking, feeling and perceiving? On a functional side we ask: What are their cognitive, mobile and sensory abilities? We use a variety of tools, such as personas, storyboards, and workflow maps to better understand user needs and requirements.

    Q: How do we make products more inclusive?

    • Zabel: We can take a topic like inclusive and accessible design and overlay that on a category like wound care. We ask: What are the ranges of ability a patient might bring to a task like opening medical device packaging, applying a dressing over a wound, and managing a negative pressure therapy unit? What are the abilities required and what are the ranges we might experience with an aging population or a chronically ill population? Or, we can focus on the clinician side. With an aging population of nurses, we should consider a nurse whose eyesight may be changing due to the natural aging process. How might we create products with clear labeling, strong contrast and legible text so they see critical information? We’re all aging, so this isn’t about designing for a person living with a disability. It’s a recognition that we’re all human and bring different abilities to each interaction and use-case scenario. Why not design products that empower our customers to do what they love for as long as possible?

    Q: What does the future hold for 3M Health Care?

    • Zabel: COVID-19 made it clear that patients and providers deserve a “new normal.” As our work has moved from office to home, healthcare is moving from hospital to clinic to home. The pandemic expedited these shifts and as a result consumers expect and deserve more control. As we think about the future, both patients and clinicians will continue to expect products, systems and experiences to meet them where they are while adapting to each individual’s needs and expectations.

      At 3M, we’re seeing how we can bring wound care products and solutions together in a cohesive experience where software, data, consumables, hardware and information are seamlessly delivered as an ecosystem. Healing at home is accelerating for wound patients, with advances in remote wound monitoring and mobile apps. In fact, 3M already offers a negative pressure wound therapy unit that has a cellular feed in the device. Virtual therapy specialists can give regular therapy reminders and see if the device has been turned on or if there have been any alarms signaling a malfunction.

      We’re thinking about how we can keep up the momentum while ensuring the next-generation of wound care products takes the patient and provider experience to the next level. It’s an exciting place to be because we will have a direct impact on healing wounds and restoring lives – made possible by 3M Science.

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