PA Consulting’s approach to sustainable design in medtech

24 April 2024 2 min. read
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PA Consulting, an innovation and transformation consulting firm, in a recent report examined approaches and principles for designing more sustainable medical technology (medtech) products.

In the report – “Reimagining sustainable medtech” – PA design experts looked at continuous glucose monitors (CGMs), a popular home health solution for managing diabetes. The fast-growing product segment is expected to exceed $13.5 billion by 2030, but with that comes an increase in associated waste, including heavily-packaged single-use items.

PA’s examination of the product segment illustrates several key principles in their “design for sustainability” (DfS) approach.

Execution is as important as strategy. The assessment found that a device with single-use, disposable electronics did not have the worst carbon footprint – showing that the way reusable devices are distributed, used, and disposed is central to their sustainability.

PA Consulting’s approach to sustainable design in medtech

Extending functional life is key. Frequency of CGM sensor replacement obviously affects their carbon footprint, so extending their longevity is important. This requires improving underlying technology to safely extend use periods without affecting accuracy.

Supporting services are required for enabling sustainable use. Since medtech products are not easily recycled, alternative collection routes and services would be needed to recover CGMs in their current form.

Bad UX is bad for sustainability. Home use of medtech requires sustainable behaviors from the users, and difficult-to-use products may be shunned by consumers who desire the smoothest interfaces.

Design strategy will differ between companies, locations, and users. Some users may opt for convenience and price over sustainability. Targeted research in varying demographics, legislation, and underlying infrastructure allows designers to tailor products without compromising on sustainability.

When PA is in the initial discovery phase of a project, they start with three foundational steps for DfS.

Understand the landscape – including nature of solutions, functional requirements, market context, and relevant technologies, as well as competing solutions.

Identify hotspots – that is, the most significant impact areas that can be influenced by design. This stage includes teardowns of products to understand disassembly issues and to gain a material breakdown of different devices.

Strategy and principles – use these insights to focus on eco-design principles and lay the foundation for stakeholder interrogation.