Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Frog Design Team Aims to Make Pelvic Exam More Tolerable, 3D Prints Speculums

ST Medical Devices

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We all have our challenges in life, along with our likes and dislikes, but most women can agree on sharing a common cringing dread for that annual visit to the gynecologist. It is a yearly appointment we all must get through for the sake of our health, teeth gritted, waiting for it to be over so we can go home, have a glass of wine, and forget about it for another year. Just the word stirrups or speculum is usually met with a dour response.

Frog, a progressive design firm headquartered in San Francisco, is trying to change that. Hailey Stewart is a designer at Frog who has taken it upon herself not only to educate (and probably shock) her male counterparts on the horrors of the speculum, but also to redesign it for modern-day usage. Stewart and interaction designer Sahana Kumar have contemplated this instrument that has been used for examination and during surgeries for ages, hearkening back to ancient Greece.

Most of these instruments are made out of stainless steel or plastic today, and considered to cause moderate discomfort during use. Not surprisingly, many women feel stressed and humiliated during gynecological exams—and may even forgo them altogether.

[Image: Frog]

“The more comfortable a patient is, the faster they can do their job, the more patients they can see,” says Stewart. “There’s actual monetary value to [patient] comfort.”

In creating a new design, Stewart and Kumar considered all the reasons women dread seeing the speculum:

  • Horrible cranking noise
  • The feel of cold steel
  • Discomfort caused while it is in use

They went over many different ideas and iterations for a more comfortable design, and relied on 3D printing for creating prototypes. These were passed on to gynecologists and medical providers.

“The one they were really excited about was the one that opened up using three bills, rather than just two,” says Stewart.

In speaking with doctors and gaining further input however, Stewart and Kumar realized that more about the annual pelvic exam visit needs to change aside from redesigning the speculum.

“It’s never going to be perfect,” says Kumar. “So how do we at least prepare people emotionally for how it’s going to be, and make them feel like they got some value out of it at the end?”

[Image: Frog]

Their team has gone so far as to create a brand for the annual pelvic exam experience, called Yona. It included a mobile app for handling forms, questions, and even offers a pre-appointment guided meditation. Kumar has also made a ‘gear kit’ which involves a stress ball to use during the visit and socks. All of this is still in the early stages, and they realize that doctors are the main obstacle.

“You could create the most beautiful, most unique, most user-friendly device, but if a doctor doesn’t want to learn how to use it, your patient’s never going to see it,” Stewart says.

Discuss this article and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com, or share your thoughts below.

[Source: Wired]

 

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