Dipali Aphale


A patient-centered inhaler for chronic lung disease.



Our goal was to improve patient quality of life; improve patient adherence (taking medications, doing breathing exercises correctly, using equipment correctly, etc.); better patient overall health; and increase patient involvement in their own care.



Dipali Aphale

Melanie Löff-Bird

Understanding Lung disease


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

COPD is a progressive condition that usually manifests itself as a combination of emphysema and bronchitis. Together the two reduce the amount of oxygen exchange in the lungs and thicken the lining of the airways. Patients describe breathlessness as not being able to get air out of their lungs due to inflammation and close proximity to the diaphragm. Current treatments are as follows:


Inhalers are prescribed to prevent inflammation and to help open up the patient’s airways.


Pulmonary rehabilitation works in conjunction with medical therapies as a way to maintain the physical and mental health of a patient.


Daily aerobic exercises are recommended to improve the general function of the lung.

Insights from Interviews



"My older [COPD] patients have the most trouble staying active and staying motivated to take their inhaler on a daily basis; they are often discouraged by the slow results.

As beneficial as rehab is, it cannot replace the medical treatment. COPD is a serious disease that requires proper medication."

Pulmonary Rehab


"As a part of the rehab program, we focus heavily on helping patients understand their disease and do workshops on breathing techniques and inhaler usage.

There is no right or wrong exercise really, because any form of consistent aerobic lung function will improve lung function."

Drug Development


"I recommend a spacer for many of my COPD patients [since] it helps increase the amount of medicine they intake with a single dosage."


Inhalers are the most wasted medication because people don’t know how to use them properly.
— Dr. Hayes, Pulmonologist


Survey Results

We developed a survey in order to better understand the pain points of inhaler users.  We had a sample size of 54 people who completed the survey, ranging from teens to adults to senior citizens.  The survey had various questions that allowed us to gain valuable primary data on each user's inhaler behaviors.  Below are visualizations of some of the most compelling and useful data sets acquired from this survey.

inhaler survey data-01.png

Key Physical Attributes


Small - it should fit into the palm of the hand.

emergency use

To avoid additional stress during an acute attack.


Should fit easily into a trouser or jacket pocket.

visible dosing

Remaining doses should be visible, allowing patient to anticipate when new prescription will be required.


easy dose loading

Should be possible to load dose into device quickly and hygienically. 

clean + hygienic

Should be simple to protect and clean the mouthpiece.

separate device + dose

To avoid additional cost and wastage.



design intent

After analyzing the data collected from literature reviews, survey results, and interviews with professionals in pulmonology, physical therapy, and drug development, we decided on a design direction that dealt with a new configuration of the outer casing for the diskus dry powder inhaler. Additionally, ease of holding and quantity of puffs left were secondary conditions taken into account.

Based especially on survey results from users of these specific inhalers, length-of-breath feedback and confirmation was a must-have primary attribute.

We initially ideated with sketches to brainstorm features, form, and function.  We tried to manipulate the silhouettes to resemble symmetry, and represent common features that users might already be accustomed to from their old inhalers. We also tried to take into account how it would be held, but to further that experiment, we had to shift gears from two-dimensional ideation to three-dimensional modeling.




We took to the lathe

to experiment with blue foam, creating several physical models that brought the two-dimensional ideation to life.


We played with form and scale

to test what shapes and configurations were viable.


After mocking up physical prototypes

we carried out an intuitive role-play for each model with a current user of a diskus dry-powder inhaler. 


Observing and documenting the interaction

allowed us to refine our form, and get a better understanding of comfort and ease of use.


The Design


A reinvented way for users to interact with their diskus dry powder inhaler.

Clearway was finalized with a magnetic mouth piece, a light feature that confirms a proper inhalation time, a digital dose meter, audible confirmation capabilities, and a battery that powers it all hidden underneath the silicone over-molded hand grips.  In order to avoid accidental dosage release, there is a lock on the top hand grip that must be engaged before decompressing the grip to allow the powder to release.