On December 16, I presented my thesis poster, “Lady Business.” The poster reviews my research, design ideas, prototypes and approach. Responses varied from horrified to enthusiastic about the idea of putting women’s health care products into a vending machine.
Self-service healthcare in the women’s restroom
This could be easier
This project began after it took 3 weeks for me to obtain a pack of birth control pills this summer. My prescription had run out, my insurance changed, I was living in a new city, and I didn’t have a doctor to see. While hiding in the phone booth at work to call a nurse I thought, why is this so hard?
I started daydreaming that I could buy my birth control pills from a vending machine in the restroom. Soon, I became interested in using my thesis project as a piece of design rhetoric. By showing an easier way, I want to argue that the current system is too burdensome.
Do I have to?
Getting care for your female needs is time consuming, can sometimes be embarrassing, and may require access to health insurance, a clinician or a pharmacy. No matter her situation, one of these issues will affect a woman’s care experience.
Women fear being judged when they walk up to a counter to buy virtually any female product.
Interviews reveal women often deal with their care in isolation from their peers, and rely on scraps of information from doctor’s visits, commercials and hearsay.
Because many contraceptions and treatments for common infections are available only by prescription, women don’t often see their full range of choices.
DAMSELS IN DISTRESS
On the loose
Doctors speak about women’s health in tones of fear, saying common contraceptions and treatments are “dangerous” and subject to “abuse” if made widely available. In reality, serious side effects are rare and the consequences of not having access to care are much more severe.
Too much faith
Some providers believe women aren’t educated enough to handle self-care. But women say, “Nobody knows my body better than me.”
In the ladies’ room
So how can women get the care they need without the hassles of the current system? Well, the answer is hanging on the wall of a women’s restroom near you. Yes, the humble and archaic feminine product vending machine.
We have the technology
The women’s restroom offers several advantages. It is public and accessible to women as they go about their day. The space is inherently women-only and anonymous. Vending machines are ubiquitous but under-used.
On the spot
Buy what you need and use it right away, even if you’re away from home.
PRODUCTS AND PACKAGING
Self Diagnose and treat
A sample testing and treatment kit for urinary tract infections (UTIs).
What a pill
Refilling birth control pills is a pain. Refill‑at‑will packaging could be topped up when you’re running low.
In a second round of user research, I plan to ask women to assemble their ideal self-care kits for treatments and contraceptions. After they assemble the kits, they’ll stock the vending machine prototype and place it in a bathroom mock up.
“Proposals” not solutions
Roberto Verganti said, “We do not look at the market, we make proposals to people.” I am proposing a future scenario for women’s health. This design isn’t about designing a solution around every medical regulation that exists today.
This project aims to suspend disbelief and ask viewers to imagine women’s health care as a selfservice. My prototype is presented as a possible future, meant to convince the world that this is a problem that needs solving. Women and care providers don’t question the system, even though it isn’t ideal for many. Rhetoric is needed to push women out of their “This is just the way it is” mindset and towards new models of care.
MDes candidate 2012
Communication Planning & Information Design
Advisor: Suguru Ishizaki
Carnegie Mellon University
I presented the poster formally to a group of three design faculty members, Nick Durrant, Bruce Hanington and Terry Irwin. Here are my talking points:
Lady Business: the self-service female health care vending machine
- My motivations for starting this project.
- This is design rhetoric, not simply a solution. I am seeking to push change in attitudes about women’s health.
- The biggest problems women face in getting care are time, access and shame.
- The “fear of the cashier” is ubiquitous in any health care purchase.
- Women have 30 years of fertility and are given contraception in 1-day to 28-day doses. This means dozens to hundreds of trips to doctors and pharmacies.
- Making decisions alone. Women feel like they are “flying blind” in how they select and use female health care products.
- The choices aren’t in front of me. How can I know my options unless a health care worker recommends something?
- Doctors treat ladies like “damsels in distress” who need to be protected and monitored.
- This attitude creates a hindrance for women who want to decide for themselves.
- Pharmacists think women can’t handle the drugs without their help and control.
- Irrational fears such as people “gobbling down pills” are used to keep medications under lock and key.
- The women’s restroom is a good spot to buy women’s health care products.
- It’s a place women can enter and leave at their convenience, it’s not a separate trip, it’s women-only and anonymous.
- Packaging could make it easy to test, treat, and refill on women’s health care supplies.
- Packaging could be an educational tool to help guide women’s choices.
- Next round of user research will be to have women participants assemble self-care kits and vending machines.
- This is a proposal, not a solution.
- This represents a possible future.
- The goal is to question the current state of women’s health care.
- The project is not meant to create a perfect system for today.
- Isn’t meant to conform to the restrictions and bureaucracy of the current model.
- This is a proposal to change the model of care.