Earlier we looked at how design helps first responders move patients at accident sites, with a cleverly-designed scoop stretcher.
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Here we’ll look at a similar problem, further down the line of care. In hospitals, bedridden patients often need to be repositioned within the bed: Rolled on their side, propped up to a sitting position, or “translated,” i.e. slid upwards or downwards on the bed. With people weighing what they do, two people are often required to help them perform these movements. The incumbent aid is a low-friction “slide sheet” between the patient and the linens:
Even with slide sheets, however, injuries abound healthcare workers. The problem is that it’s ergonomically awkward for a standing person to manipulate the average weight of a person at bed height.
Fergus Davidson, Maireid Carrigg and Maneet Singh, Industrial Design students at Australia’s RMIT, have devised a better solution with their Air Lift concept.
“Once tucked underneath the patient, the AirLift can be inflated using a remote-control pump, which fills the inner bladder with air and lifts the patient off the bed. Placing a layer of air between the patient and the bed significantly reduces the force required for repositions. This mitigates the risk of injury, as the device does the heavy lifting, whilst the Healthcare Worker steadies the patient.”
“The pump is controlled using a remote-control clip, which can be attached to the Healthcare Worker’s clothes for hands free use or housed in the top of the pump for charging and transport. By folding the device prior to insertion, the Healthcare Worker can switch between three key patient movements. Handles around the perimeter of the AirLift remove the need to grab the sheet directly, addressing dexterity issues ageing workers often face, and the removable cover can be replaced to meet hygiene requirements.”
Here’s how it works:
Pleasingly, the team explains how research and data, combined with that out-of-the-studio “aha” moment, led to the design:
“We began by identifying our design problem. This involved a design SPRINT, surveying nurses, and a few rounds of feedback. From here we broke the device into core components and brainstormed ideas using morphological analysis. Although fun, these initial concepts, which included vacuum sealed sponges and soft robotic arms were overly complicated.
“The idea to use pneumatics presented itself on a camping trip, when one of the team was inflating a dry bag. Realising the potential, we modified an inflatable lounge so that it could comfortably reposition a human, which served as our initial proof of concept. From there the design evolved into a kit consisting of a pump, an inflatable bladder, and a slide sheet. Soft body simulations were invaluable at this point, helping us to visualise how the device would work.
“Following interviews with experts in the field, we refined the concept further – and decided to combine the inflatable bladder and slide sheet into a single component. To assess how to safely handle patients, we modified a standard slide sheet, stitching handles around the perimeter. Finally, we reduced the size of the pump and added a remote control, which we 3D printed and painted.”
Air Lift was a National Winner in this year’s James Dyson Awards. Davidson, Carrigg and Singh plan to use the AUD $9,000 (USD $6,146) prize money to develop a working prototype. Congratulations to the three of you!