How to Enable Patient-Centric Co-Design for Better Healthcare Solutions

How to Enable Patient-Centric Co-Design for Better Healthcare Solutions

Alira Health’s Giulia Pierini (left) and Eduardo Perez-Guagnelli, PhD (right) share insights about the critical need for patient-centric co-design in the life sciences.

Patient-centric co-design refers to an approach where patients or end-users are actively involved with healthcare professionals, designers and other stakeholders to develop healthcare services or products. It allows for the creation of more effective, accessible and user-friendly healthcare solutions that align with the actual needs and desires of patients.

In this interview, Xtalks spoke with two industry experts from Alira Health, Giulia Pierini, Principal of Patient Engagement, and Eduardo Perez-Guagnelli, PhD, Patient-Centric Co-Design Lead, about how life sciences companies can adopt patient-centric co-design in their product development.

Pierini and Perez-Guagnelli emphasized that addressing both the technical aspects of product development and the real-world needs and experiences of patients is vital. They also shared strategies for integrating this approach into product development, ultimately aiming to improve patient outcomes.

Read on to learn more about patient-centric co-design and watch the free on-demand webinar for further insights.

How would you define patient-centric co-design for life sciences companies? 

“Patient-centric co-design for life sciences companies is about creating solutions, products and strategies with the patient in focus and involving patients as the decision-makers throughout the product development process.”

– Eduardo Perez-Guagnelli


Perez-Guagnelli: This approach involves collaborating with various stakeholders, while always considering the impact on the patient. Here, patients contribute alongside healthcare providers in the product development process, unlike traditional approaches where healthcare providers are the main consultants. This ensures that patient experiences, needs and perspectives are integrated into the development process.


This validated method gathers direct patient input to better understand their expectations, motivations, pain points and unmet needs, ensuring the resulting product is not only usable but also desired and understandable by the patients.

Why is patient-centric co-design a must-have?

Pierini: Contrary to other industries, the healthcare industry hasn’t always focused on designing with patients as end-users but has focused more on physicians. Nevertheless, it is becoming clear that including all stakeholders — especially the patients — from the start is important to prevent post-launch problems, which can increase costs and efforts. A patient-centric co-design mindset, as seen in other industries, is needed to ensure a more effective product development process and avoid long-term problems such as poor adoption and retention.

What are the most common misconceptions or challenges companies have about patient-centric co-design?

Pierini: A common misconception is the belief that companies already understand patient needs, usually based on information from healthcare professionals. This approach is incomplete because truly understanding patient perspectives requires direct communication with them.

Another challenge is that patient-centric co-design is too expensive. While there are ideal ways for incorporating patient input, these can be adapted to suit a company’s specific needs and budget. But avoiding patient engagement due to cost can lead to post-launch problems, such as poor adoption and use of the product, resulting in lost revenue and the need for corrections.

Can you discuss a situation where patient input was in contrast to what healthcare professionals anticipated or believed was best? How was this discrepancy addressed?

Perez-Guagnelli: For example, many medical device projects fail to receive regulatory clearance. This often happens during the summative evaluation phase, just before approval is requested, when it’s discovered that the products are not actually suitable for patients. These failures usually result from a development process focusing only on technical aspects and healthcare provider perspectives, neglecting patient input.

For instance, drug delivery devices may meet all technical requirements regarding dosage and delivery methods but fail in practical use by patients. This leads to wasted time and resources, so it is important to include patient perspectives from the beginning of the development process.

How do you ensure that the voices of a diverse set of patients are represented in the co-design process, especially considering socio-economic, cultural, or disability-related barriers?

Perez-Guagnelli: To ensure diverse patient voices in co-design, it’s important to focus on the intended user population and specific types of use. The first step is defining the patient profile by inclusion and exclusion criteria. Techniques like user personas are used, which place different patient profiles into categories. These personas define the design requirements, which help ensure the solution is relevant and accessible to a wide range of users with diverse backgrounds and needs.

As we move into an era with more remote and virtual healthcare solutions, how do you foresee the role of patient-centric co-design evolving?

Perez-Guagnelli: Patient-centric co-design can be adapted to different situations. It can be applied to digital healthcare. The core principles — addressing technical, functional and aesthetic requirements and focusing on user expectations, desires and pain points — remain the same.

Digital solutions might involve specific tools like UX [user experience] and UI [user interface] design. But these are just parts of the broader framework aimed at addressing user expectations.

Pierini: With the increasing use of digital healthcare solutions, involving patients in the design process becomes even more important, as they are the end-users of these technologies. Therefore, as Eduardo mentioned, the patient-centric co-design framework is flexible and applicable to all solutions, including digital ones.

How do you measure the success of a patient-centric design? Beyond patient key performance indicators (KPIs), are there any other metrics that you find valuable?

Perez-Guagnelli: The success of patient-centric co-design is measured through an iterative process, with patient feedback on each iteration. It involves presenting each iteration to patients, gathering their input on how the solution at hand meets their needs and assessing both behavioral and attitudinal responses. Each iteration aims to ensure that patient feedback is effectively incorporated while aligning with the goals of the company developing the product.

While initial metrics or KPIs set the standard, real success is achieved by evaluating the solution through each iteration. The most effective measure of success in patient-centric co-design is how patients respond to, use and provide feedback on each version of the product.

If you had one piece of advice for companies who want to apply patient-centric co-design, what would you suggest?

Perez-Guagnelli: A common misconception is that anyone can co-design with patients, but it requires industry expertise in interacting with patients, healthcare professionals and other stakeholders, especially in compliance with regulatory processes.

So, I think that companies interested in patient-centric co-design should find the right strategic partner. The partner can help in two main ways: firstly, in connecting with patient communities for patient profiling and data collection, and secondly, by guiding the company through a systematic co-design process. This involves guiding through steps like design thinking, behavioral design, human factors and engineering, to make sure the process produces reliable, patient-informed evidence. Finding a partner who can effectively support this is important for successful patient-centric co-design.