Understanding wrist splint user needs and personalisation through codesign
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Loughborough University.
Wrist splints are a common treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, however their effectiveness is compromised by patients not wearing splints as often as prescribed. Previous research has identified a number of reasons for non-compliance, but typically lacks insights that could lead to improved splint design.
This thesis investigates the motivators for patients to wear and not wear their wrist splints and, the impact of personalisation of splint appearance on patient wear. The work is based on the premise that digital design and manufacturing processes, such as Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and 3D Printing, can produce bespoke splints on demand.
The research begins with a literature review across the core areas of: splinting, additive manufacture, product appearance and personalisation. This literature review identifies gaps in knowledge from which research questions are established for the work.
The research employs a qualitative, generative design research approach and, follows a codesign framework employing telling, making and enacting tools. The thesis is made up of three studies. The first study is a sensitisation study and uses design probes to prepare the participants for the research and begin exploring the problem space. The second is a comprehensive study into participants splint wear behaviour and uses context mapping and scenario picture card tools to investigate the motivators for participants to wear and not wear wrist splints, along with positive and negative outcomes or wearing/not wearing splints. The final study uses a personalisation toolkit to elicit patient needs for a future wrist splint design and investigate self-reported expectations regarding compliance of patients who used the toolkit.
The research finds that patient compliance is affected by practical and aesthetic limitations of current splints. It identifies 4 motivating factors to wear a splint and 10 motivating factors to not wear a splint. Additionally, it identifies 6 positive outcomes of wearing splints, 6 negative outcomes of wearing splints, 3 positive outcomes of not wearing splints and 3 negative outcomes of not wearing splints. Requirements for an improved splint design are established and form the basis of the design for a prototype personalisation toolkit. Testing of this toolkit reveals that patients are keen to own more than one splint and personalise splints to match the scenario in which it is to be worn. Patients reported that they expected to be more compliant with a personalised splint when compared to their current splint.