Research database

This Research Database has been developed by HCPC Europe to create an overview of the available research in the field of patient-friendly and adherence packaging. The database is for all members of HCPC Europe. Members can register as a user to get access to the database. Is your organisation not a member yet? Then please register your organisation as a member or contact our Executive Director Ger Standhardt for more information.


‘Inclusive’ design for containers: Improving openability

For many years the standard engineering design approach has been to design for the most common size or ability and hence ensuring that your product is applicable to the broadest proportion of society. Recently, however, this approach has been seen to be flawed, particularly with regards to consumer packaging (although there many examples in other industries, such as transport). This paper outlines a new approach to packaging design that has been termed ‘inclusive’ design.


Development and validation of a technique to measure and compare the opening characteristics of tamper-evident bottle closures

Large sections of the population encounter difficulty in opening consumer packaging of many kinds. Screw‐caps in particular can cause problems for a range of people with a variety of impairments. This paper describes the development and initial testing of a novel multi‐axial force and torque transducer, designed for the study of loading conditions when tamper‐evident bottle closures are opened manually. The transducer, which comprises seven beams that are sensitive to direct forces and torques in each of three axes, can provide comprehensive information on the loading conditions that occur when an instrumented bottle is opened. Importantly, the transducer has been designed to fit inside a typical 500 ml capacity plastic soft drinks bottle so that it does not interfere with the way in which the subject grips the bottle and cap, or applies forces and torques, in order to open the bottle. The method to obtain load data from the calibration matrix, along with initial opening force and torque test data from two user groups, elderly and young, is described. It is clear from the results of these tests that the elderly and young groups exhibit significantly different torque and force profiles to open bottles. It is anticipated that the transducer will be a valuable tool in future studies of opening strategies.


Getting to grips with packaging: Using ethnography and computer simulation to understand hand-pack interaction

The general population of many developed countries is aging. Despite many medical advances, aging brings with it a host of issues, not least of all the loss of strength and dexterity. Hence, everyday functions that were easily performed at a younger age can become difficult or even impossible. One major area of concern is the ability of elderly consumers to access food or medicines from packaged goods such as jars, bottles and child‐resistant closures. Many consumers avoid food in jars or have problems with medical compliance. Recently, the authors developed a new approach to packaging design termed the ‘three‐stranded approach’. Here, they outline numerical, experimental and analytical techniques for matching pack function to human ability. Within this work it became apparent that developing a more detailed understanding of how packaging is manipulated and gripped would be of use to packaging designers and engineers and hence enable the manufacture of easier‐to‐open packaging. This paper outlines some preliminary studies on the development of a computational model of a human hand as a tool for packaging design, and a supporting study on the various grips used by consumers.


Size does matter: further studies in hand-pack interaction using computer simulation

This study expands on a previous work by the authors where it was shown through the use of ethnography and finite element models that a link exists between the choice of grip and joint stresses. Further finite element models are created to investigate the relationship between joint stresses and hand dimensions. This is an important area of research for inclusive design, since some of the most vulnerable members of society, such as elderly women, often exhibit extremes of physical dimensions.


How wide do you want the jar?: The effect on diameter for ease of opening for wide-mouth closures

The ease with which a container can be accessed or its ‘openability’ is becoming more of an issue for manufacturers and consumers as the average age of the population increases. Ageing brings with it a range of issues including a loss of strength and reduced dexterity. This paper aimed to look at the relationship between diameter, torque and age for standard consumer closures using a torque‐measuring device.

The results of the investigation show that larger‐diameter jars (85 mm) require much higher opening forces than smaller ones (75 mm and below). Smaller jars require lower opening torques, although the force required to open many jars is still higher than many elderly people are able to generate.


Critical factors in opening pharmaceutical packages: A usability study among healthcare workers, women with rheumatoid arthritis and elderly women

This cross‐sectional study compared the usability of pharmaceutical packages to determine the critical factors involved in packages with different opening mechanisms. Four packaging types (a bottle with a screw cap, a box with a pill plate, disposable plastic droppers with a container and a jar with a hinge cap) were evaluated by 45 women (nurses, older women and women with rheumatoid arthritis). Usability was evaluated for subjective measures related to the ease of opening and for objective measures related to the time needed to open the packaging, electrical muscular activity (electromyography, EMG) and ranges of motion of the upper extremities.

Of the arthritic women, 13% were unable to open the screw‐cap bottle, and 20% did not succeed in opening the plastic dropper packaging. Everyone else, except one older woman handling the plastic dropper packaging, managed to open all the packages. Regarding the ease of opening, the participants gave the plastic dropper packaging the lowest rating (p < 0.001). The arthritic women used greater relative biomechanical strain while opening the screw cap bottle and the box with pill plate compared with the other participants (p < 0.05), with the relative muscular strain in the forearm varying by 29–40% for the maximal EMG activity and the relative range of motion in the wrist being 70–90% of the maximal range of motion.

These findings revealed both subjectively and objectively measured features on the usability of pharmaceutical packages. The comprehensibility of the opening mechanism and the ease of handling the package should be considered when user‐friendly products are being created.


An affordance-based methodology for package design

The term affordance describes an object’s utilitarian function or actionable possibilities. Product designers have taken great interest in the concept of affordances because of the bridge they provide relating to design, the interpretation of design and, ultimately, functionality in the hands of consumers. These concepts have been widely studied and applied in the field of psychology but have had limited formal application to packaging design and evaluation. We believe that the concepts related to affordances will reveal novel opportunities for packaging innovation. To catalyse this, presented work had the following objectives: (a) to propose a method by which packaging designers can purposefully consider affordances during the design process; (b) to explain this method in the context of a packaging‐related case study; and (c) to measure the effect on package usability when an affordance‐based design approach is employed.


Medication packaging and older patients: A systematic review

The global challenges posed by demographic change call for more senior‐friendly medication packaging. This paper presents a comprehensive integrated view and synthesis of the literature on medication packaging and older people. Considering the multidisciplinary nature of the research field, a systematic review was conducted in four databases (Scopus, Web of Science, Medline and Engineering Village), limited to original research studies containing empirical data and English‐language papers, published until January 2015. Manual reference mining was carried out for other relevant papers, and a critical appraisal methodology was applied to judge the quality of the papers. In total, 34 studies are fully reviewed and classified according to the main characteristics of the studies, information about older patients and impact of the packaging on medication use. As a result, the review indicates the literature to be fragmented and diverse yet composed of two major interconnected research streams (physical functionality and user capability; medication management) and orientations (packaging; user). The physical functionality and user capability stream of research with a packaging orientation addresses child‐resistant containers (CRCs), whereas the user‐oriented studies address openability, i.e. the ease of opening the medication. In contrast, the medication management stream of research with a packaging orientation focuses on the adherence outcomes of different package aids, whereas the user‐oriented studies focus on the counselling provided by healthcare professionals and coping strategies for older patients to handle the packages. These original findings provide valuable input to researchers and practitioners and offer guidance for the further development of medication packaging.