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Title: Symbolic and practical facets in the use and production of home medical technology : the example of blood pressure monitoring
Author: Vasileiou, Konstantina
ISNI:       0000 0004 5994 8402
Awarding Body: Brunel University London
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 2015
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The value to consider user needs throughout the development of medical devices has been acknowledged in the field of health technology assessment. Yet, user needs are narrowly conceptualised and are mainly examined from an ergonomic perspective. By focusing on the user-device interaction per se with a view to detect use errors and to create design solutions that promote intended use, the dominant approach to user needs research fails to adequately elaborate upon symbolic and practice-related dimensions in the user-technology relationship. Moreover, whilst the examination of user needs from a User standpoint is clearly required, it is also crucial to investigate how the medical device industry understands and addresses this issue, since it is these understandings that will eventually be projected onto the technology. The present research sought to provide a cross-actor account on the issue of user needs by examining the perspectives of two key stakeholders: the users and the medical device manufacturer. Using the example of home blood pressure (BP) monitoring, a qualitative programme of research explored, on the one hand, the process of integrating home blood pressure monitors (HBPMs) into daily life as well as the elements that are conducive to building trust in this technology, and on the other, the practices the medical device manufacturer adopts to capture its users and their needs. The results suggest that people engage with home BP monitoring in an effort to develop an experiential understanding of their health condition reproducing the dominant discourse around the benefits of self-care. Nevertheless, communicating this practice outside the home was not always without tension since concerns around the ascription of undesired identities were expressed. Home measurements were occasionally performed to check the dependability of technology – arguably an unintended device use – indicating the importance of establishing trust in the artefact. Building trust in HBPMs appeared to be a multifaceted phenomenon that was not limited to the perceived trustworthiness of the technology but implicated a network of other trustworthy relationships with humans, institutions and technologies. Medium-to-large medical device manufacturers appear to appreciate the value of a user needs-informed approach to medical device development employing a series of routes, more or less direct and formalised, to reach their user. The challenge for the industry is to synthesise the evidential base deriving from individual user studies to create a higher order knowledge base. The term ‘symbolic’ – also employed in the title of this thesis – signifies people’s representations, reasoning and meanings constructed around the use or production of home medical technology whilst the term ‘practical’ (or practice-related) refers to actions, activities, and routines pertaining to these two aspects.
Supervisor: Barnet, J. ; Young, T. Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Social sciences ; Health technology assessment ; Home blood pressure monitors ; Lay user ; Psycho-social needs