From Stigma to Silver Linings: Improving the Experiences of Long-term Tracheostomy Users Through Product Design
Dickson, Charlotte Danielle
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The design of tracheostomy products has barely changed in over 100 years. Furthermore, existing literature demonstrates little understanding of what it is like to live with long-term tracheostomy. In response, this project aims to capture the stories of real tracheostomy users. It applies an action research methodology to challenge historic stagnation and advocate for the consideration of users’ needs in tracheostomy product design. Where a cultural and systemic drive to minimise production costs and maintain clinical function have become the defining features of medical product design, this project uses human-centred design, and co-design approaches to bring focus to the need for emotionally sensitive aesthetics and improved usability. The findings contribute an understanding of the challenges tracheostomy users face in everyday life and the complex relationships they have with their tracheostomy products. Design outcomes include a series of artefacts intended to capture and evoke empathy for aspects of users’ experiences, as well as a design proposal demonstrating a possible approach to improving tracheostomy products through enhanced choice, usability, and aesthetics. The research highlights aspects of tracheostomy user experiences requiring further research, sets a precedent for future design-led research in this area, and makes a compelling case for tracheostomy product design innovation.