Clinical Safety Research Unit and Department of Biosurgery and Surgical Technology at St Mary's hospital, Paddington and Imperial College, London. Also, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
The project aims to better understand and map healthcare processes on hospital surgical wards, establishing an evidence base to design equipment which better supports these processes and therefore reduces instances of medical error.
Research indicates that in up to 10 per cent of all hospitals admissions some kind of adverse incident occurs, more than half of which are believed to be avoidable. The effect on staff and the £2billion+ consequential costs further increase the need to improve all aspects of patient safety. A significant contributory factor is that healthcare processes have undergone many revisions in recent years, while the design of much non-surgical equipment remains largely unchanged. In short, current treatments are not properly and effectively supported by available equipment.
Design skills are often engaged late in the stage of development of hospital equipment, and as a consequence the designs can show little regard for the systems in which they work. A multidisciplinary approach is necessary to gain a more thorough understanding of these systems and healthcare processes in order to develop more appropriate products and devices. This collaborative methodology allows systems and products to be considered concurrently, paving the way for process reforms as well as new designs. The research team brings together designers, clinicians, ergonomists, psychologists and academics in the field of design, business and patient safety.
A thorough understanding of healthcare processes from admission to discharge is necessary to provide a rich context for any resulting designs. Grounded research in hospitals with frontline staff will feed into a map of the patient journey and experience of elective surgery. From there, the team will conduct a deeper analysis of processes on a hospital ward, as well as learning lessons from other analogous high-risk industries.
These maps and analyses will generate performance requirements for hospital equipment, and feed into a series of briefs to explore how design can improve patient safety. The design responses to these briefs will involve process and product innovations to be prototyped and thoroughly tested. The concepts will then be refined iteratively, and the test results will provide a reliable evidence base for the designs.