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Designing effective medicine labels for senior citizens in Hong Kong

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Mistakes in medicine intake is common among older patients in Hong Kong. Some may lead to fatalities, particularly for older patients who live alone. These elderly patients have to struggle with the …

Mistakes in medicine intake is common among older patients in Hong Kong. Some may lead to fatalities, particularly for older patients who live alone. These elderly patients have to struggle with the small print and poor information design often found on medicine labels. A two-year research project of redesigning medicine labels was launched in 2011 in response to the imminent need for improving medicine labels in public hospitals. The aim of the project is to decrease the number of errors related to medicine intake and to enhance active ageing in the local community through effective information design.


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  • 1. Designing effective medicine labelsfor senior citizens in Hong KongBrian Kwok and Keith TamInformation Design LabSchool of Design, Hong Kong Polytechnic University13 April 2012Information Design Conference · Greenwich, UK© Information Design Lab, Hong Kong Polytechnic University 2012
  • 2. The population is rapidly ageing in Hong Kong 10 8.89 million 8 2,489,984 28% of total 7 million populationHong Kong 910,481 65 years and olderpopulation 6 13% of total (million) population 65 years and older 4 2 0 year 2009 2039 projectedSource: Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong Population Projections 2010–2039
  • 3. Media reports on the existing medicine label designSource: Age-friendly medicine label survey reported by Sik Sik Yuen
  • 4. 2010 age-friendly medicine label surveyOf the 569 senior respondents . . .• 96% felt that the type sizes were too small• 90% suggested that symbols could be used as reminders for times and dosages• 84% requested descriptions of drugs’ shapes and coloursSource: Age-friendly medicine label survey reported by Sik Sik Yuen
  • 5. Main barriers of communication with older people inthe visual presentation of information (WHO)• Font sizes on text materials are too small to read• Medicine labels are hard to decipher• Page layouts are often confusing• Too much information in small spacesGlobal age-friendly cities guide, 2007, p.63
  • 6. Three types of medicine labels in Hong KongHospital Authority Private clinicsHealth Department
  • 7. Hospital Authority medicine label from 1982 (still in current use) Precautions Quantity of drug Name of drug Abbreviated drug nameDosage & method Precautions Name of patient Date of dispensing Name of clinic Codes for internal use
  • 8. Information listed on the medicine label1 Name of patient2 Date of dispensing3 Address of clinical hospital and name of doctor4 Trade name or pharmacological name of drug5 Dosage6 Method of administration7 Safety precautions.
  • 9. Comparing medicine labels from different countries
  • 10. Objectives• Understand the daily lives of the elderly and observe how the local older patients take their medicines• Identify the problems of existing labels on medicines distributed in Hong Kong’s public hospitals• Develop a patient-centered design approach by designing a new series of medicine labels• Explore new possibilities in label design for improving accessibility, comprehensibility and usability to the elderly.
  • 11. 1 2Legibility tests conducted by the Redesigning medicine labels asInformation Design Lab an undergraduate class project
  • 12. 1 Legibility tests by IDLVariables tested• Typefaces• Type sizes• Colours• Information prioritisation• Spatial organisation
  • 13. Seniors aged 60–84 at a community centre for seniors
  • 14. Observations at the seniors’ homes• Many do not know much about the medicine and its side effects• Main concerns are dosage and method of administration• Mostly rely on memory instead of reading the label• Precautions and expiry dates are easily overlooked• Many reorganised their medicine in their own ways• Many recognise medicine by shape and colour of containers• Many preserve leftover medicine in refrigerator
  • 15. Information searching12 participants were asked tosearch for phrases on severallabels. Durations were recorded. Search phrases B&W Colourt Expired date Name of hospital Method of administration Dosages7A1 Quantity of drug Precautions Name of patient Functions of drug5A3
  • 16. Prototype combinations developmentThis matrix was used to develop 18 prototype combinations based onthe interrelationships between colour, type size, typeface and leading
  • 17. Black and white prototypes: 1 Kai / 2 Song / 3 Hei12 point 14 point 16 point
  • 18. Colour prototypes: 1 Kai / 2 Song / 3 HeiColour for dividing line Colour for patient name Colour for dosage
  • 19. Prototype rating
  • 20. Finding the best one amongst the prototypes
  • 21. Prioritisation of information
  • 22. Information chunking
  • 23. Information chunking
  • 24. Information organisation
  • 25. Information organisation
  • 26. Four types of information groupings and prioritisations1 Patient information2 Medical information3 Precautions4 Clinical information
  • 27. Typeface preferences 字體 Kai (calligraphic) 75.4% 字體 Song (seriffed) 80.7% 字體 Hei (sanserif) 82.0% ✔
  • 28. Chinese versus Arabic numeralsMany Chinese numerals share similar strokesand therefore less distinctive than Arabicnumerals at a glance 一 二 三 五 六 1 2 3 5 6每日三次,每次一粒 每日3次,每次1粒(3 times a day, one pill each time) ✔
  • 29. Date formats   4 / 12 / 2012 4–12–2012   Both British and American date formats are used in Hong Kong12 / 4 / 2012 12–4–20122012 / 4 / 12二零⼀一二年四月十二日2012 年 4 月 12 日 ✔
  • 30. 16pt for main information, others no smaller than 8pt Precautions Quantity of drug Name of drug Abbreviated drug nameDosage & method Precautions Name of patient Date of dispensing Name of clinic Codes for internal use
  • 31. Spatial arrangement Clinical Information Patient Information Medicine Information Precautions
  • 32. More variables to be tested . . .• Portrait versus landscape format• Accommodating varied content• Label sizes for various types of medicine containers• Test for other stakeholders.
  • 33. 2 Student assignment30 students from the Visual CommunicationDesign undergraduate programmeparticipated in the project
  • 34. Student participation• Started in November 2011• Over a period of two semesters• Higher diploma and degree students• 80 design students participated• 75 user tests in total
  • 35. Test participantsMore than 70 senior participants with chronic illnesses70–85 years oldThree categories of participants• Normal eye sight• Little to no education• Visually impaired
  • 36. Card sortingTo understand how theelderly participants organiseinformation
  • 37. 儷黑 Pro 14ptTypeface and type size testing Andale Mono 6pt 儷黑 Pro 8pt儷黑 Pro 12pt 儷黑 Pro 12pt 儷黑 Pro 10pt儷黑 Pro 10pt 儷黑 Pro 14pt Andale Mono 6pt 儷黑 Pro 12pt 儷黑 Pro 14pt儷黑 Pro 11pt 儷黑 Pro 7pt 儷黑 Pro 8pt儷黑 Pro 15pt 儷黑 Pro 12pt儷黑 Pro 11pt 儷黑 Pro 10pt 儷黑 Pro 12pt 儷黑 Pro 10pt儷黑 Pro 10pt 儷黑 Pro 11pt 儷黑 Pro 7pt 儷黑 Pro 8pt 儷黑 Pro 11ptAndale Mono 7pt儷黑 Pro 15pt 儷黑 Pro 7pt 儷黑 Pro 15pt儷黑 Pro 12pt 儷黑 Pro 15pt儷黑 Pro 1pt 儷黑 Pro 11pt 儷黑 Pro 11pt 儷黑 Pro 10pt儷黑 Pro 10pt 儷黑 Pro 10pt 儷黑 Pro 8pt 儷 Andale Mono 7pt 儷黑 Pro 8pt Andale Mono 7pt 儷黑 Pro 12pt 儷 儷黑 Pro 12pt 儷黑 Pro 1pt
  • 38. Symbol testing
  • 39. Symbol testing
  • 40. Colour testing
  • 41. Label orientation testing
  • 42. Students’ prototypes
  • 43. Students’ prototypes
  • 44. Students’ prototypes
  • 45. Students’ prototypes
  • 46. Students’ prototypes
  • 47. Students’ prototypes
  • 48. Damien Hirst Image 2 caption
  • 49. For more information, please visitwww.infodesignlab.orgBrian Kwok brian@infodesignlab.orgKeith Tam keith@infodesignlab.orgwww.infodesignlab.org@infodesignlab© Information Design Lab, Hong Kong Polytechnic University 2012