Text: Jens Persson
ICU's have become a hot topic since the outbreak of Covid-19
last year. The overburdened health care workers in ICU's across the
world have become the faces of the ongoing pandemic. At a time when
their crucial contribution to society can hardly have escaped
anyone, the second-year students at the MFA APD Programme embarked
on a journey to try to make their jobs a little bit easier.
While the students' design concepts weren't specifically geared
towards solving problems informed by the pandemic, Thomas Degn,
programme director for the MFA Programme in Advanced Product
Design, believes that they may still serve as an inspiration for
the next generation of ICU's.
"Although many of the opportunities that were identified related
to generic needs in an ICU, these have all been amplified through
the pandemic and the strain it has put on the entire health care
system. Any help or improvement for the ICU environment will be
beneficial in the aftermath of the pandemic as well as the next
time we might experience something similar", says Thomas Degn.
Understanding the ICU experience
At an ICU, patients are treated for severe or life-threatening
illnesses and injuries, which require constant care, close
supervision from life support equipment and medication in order to
ensure normal bodily functions. All ICU patients' vital signs are
monitored and the information from the monitoring equipment helps
physicians, doctors and nurses take important decisions. Needless
to say, equipment that offers accurate and timely data is of utmost
importance to safeguard the well-being of patients.
Today's monitoring equipment consists of sensors which are
placed on the patient in different ways. The sensors are connected
to a monitor (or several monitors) transforming the data into
numbers and waveforms. Here, students explored new design solutions
for vital sign monitoring during different types of therapy and
recovery stages at an ICU.
Shuai Li, Sonya Swan,
Rafaela Stillner & Anna Gębala during the ideation phase for
their design Concept, EMI
In close dialogue with health care workers, and the
representatives from Getinge, the student design teams studied the
complexity of the ICU environment: the different types of
monitoring, the technology of today and the potential areas for
improvement and innovation. During the following physical
prototyping sessions students ideated, iterated and evaluated new
ideas. Soon, the four design concepts began to take shape.
"We had the opportunity to talk with healthcare professionals
and test things ourselves in 'ICU training environments'. We took
some time to be able to understand the types of equipment and
procedures performed in an ICU and then we began validating our
concept through interviews and remote testing", says Rafaela
Stillner who developed the EMI concept together with team members
Sonya Swan, Anna Gębala and Shuai Li.
The EMI smart projector
displaying mobilization excerises on the ceiling surface
The EMI system aims to make early mobilization easier and more
engaging for ICU patients and staff. Early mobilization refers to
the inital physical activity after trauma that aims to bring about
positive physiological changes, thus enabling a faster recovery.
Although early mobilization can decrease a patient's hospital stay
by 50%, it's not yet a standard routine in current ICU's. The EMI
design concept consists of a monitoring solution, a smart projector
and software. When 'Early Mobilization' is performed, the EMI
wireless monitoring device enhances the patient's freedom of
movement. A projector guides the ICU staff, patients' relatives, or
the patient, through mobilization exercises projected on the
From jumble of wires to wireless
Another student design team identified a pain point relating to
the cumbersome wire-setup of today's ECG monitoring. Most people
will know ECG as the familiar jumble of cables hooked up to the
patient's chest area. Today's cluttered sensor setup routinely has
to be unplugged and cleaned, a time-consuming job. The untangling
of the five-cable setup requires a lot of effort for intensive care
nurses and the many wires also slow down the patient's recovery
process by limiting their ability to move freely.
In order to tackle this problem, the students developed a
solution where the traditional five-cable ECG monitoring setup is
reduced to a single-line solution that feeds gathered data
wirelessly into the current monitoring system. The sensor, called
Array, can be adjusted to different body shapes and is designed to
sit on the human body. Its minimal shape makes it easy to clean,
intuitive to handle and declutters the patient's appearance.
The wireless ECG monitoring
"Array hopefully represents the next generation of the ECG
monitoring setup, where less cables are being used. We believe that
it can be implemented into the current practices of intensive care.
It is designed to help streamline the workflow of health care
professionals and improve the patient's comfort during intensive
care treatment", says Tim Schwarz, who developed the product
together with design team members Marius Kindler, Jacob Jensen and
The opportunity to get first-hand insight into the daily work
situation of health care professionals at an ICU was not only
eye-opening to students, it was clearly an affecting experience on
a deeper human level.
"One of the biggest challenges was to get a holistic
understanding of the ICU workflow. The nurses and doctors that look
after the patients 24/7 have all their processes dialed in and they
have a deep knowledge of the matter which was overwhelming at
times. When researching the matter one difficult aspect was taking
in the apparentness of human fragility and the images of tragic
events that came up. It generated a deep respect and admiration for
the people working in this environment.", says Tim Schwarz.
student design concepts
A system enabling simplified 'Early Mobilization'-training by
improving cable organization, wireless patient monitoring, and
guidance imagery. The wireless monitoring device enhances the
patient's freedom of movement and the EMI projector guides the ICU
staff, relatives or the patient, through exercises by projecting
images on the ceiling surface.
Team: Anna Gębala,
Rafaela Stillner, Shuai Li, Sonya Swan
This concept tackles the problem of assessing mental health in
the ICU, an under diagnosed area in intensive care. Through a
combined nurse and patient interface, 'Sova' allows health care
professionals to get a better understanding of the patient's pain,
activity, sleep and emotion while allowing the patient to
communicate their needs with their eyes.
Fries, Fabian Böttcher, Mehmet Mehmetalioglu, Mihkel
By reducing the traditional five-cable ECG monitoring setup to a
single-line solution that feeds gathered data wirelessly into the
current monitoring system, Array represents the next generation of
ECG monitoring. The solution helps to streamline the workflow of
health care professionals and improves the patient's comfort during
intensive care treatment.
Team: Jacob Jensen, Johannes
Rieder, Marius Kindler, Tim Schwarz
The IVIO monitoring system addresses the challenge of constant
monitoring during critical transports by introducing a new patient
monitor and transport screen. The monitor's shorter sensor
connections reduce cable entanglement. The IVIO transport display
can be easily mounted to any existing hospital bed, making
transport preparation fast and flexible.
Team: Anna Hing, Jenny
Johansson, Natalia Ikebara, Richard Prossinagg