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Audible alarms in intensive care units are of vital importance. They often mean the difference between life and death. Besides alarms, there are other sound sources in intensive care, e.g., whirring mechanical ventilators or nurses consulting with each other. The cacophony of sounds leads to alarm fatigue in nurses, disturbed sleep patterns in patients and even patient delirium.

An enthusiastic team of (former) students of the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering developed three design solutions that exemplify our vision for a silent intensive care. Care Tunes, UltiMo and Doplor contrast the cacophony of alarms, which visitors can truly experience themselves. So come to the Embassy of Health in the Innovation Powerhouse and create your own intensive care soundscape!

Care Tunes

Care Tunes is a pleasurable substitute for the excessive amount of alarms and other disturbing noises in the intensive care unit. By wearing an earpiece that transforms patient data inro a musical piece, nurses can constantly be aware of their patients’ vital signs without having to listen to the cacophony of alarm sounds. The patient’s heartrate is audible through the drums, the oxygen saturation is played on the guitar and bloodpressure is revealed by piano music. When boundaries of the vital signs are reached, the music will be dissonant. Something the nurse cannot fail to notice.

Care Tunes is developed through an iterative design process in collaboration with US partners (Sen Sound and Vanderbilt University MC) and highly based on actual sound experiences of nurses working at Erasmus MC. Nurses revealed that alarms carry quite a low level of information and that they have different personal preferences when setting boundaries for their alarms. If alarms are set to narrow limits for reaffirmation, more alarms go off quickly, creating cacophony.

 

CareTunes challenges the existing norms for alarms and calls for daring and fresh design solutions that are beyond classical views on what alarms should be like. CareTunes is a wake-up call that critical alarms can be beautiful.

Koen Bogers

Doplor

Patients at the intensive care often lack sleeping time due to all the ambient noise – not only from the devices but also from medical staff. Doplor shows all the people present in the intensive care unit when the sounds become disturbing. To do so, all sounds are registered by a sensor and translated into an interactive painting on the wall. The painting will symbolically show growing waves and deeper darker colours when sounds reach disturbing levels. By making medical staff aware of the sounds and behavioural patterns that cause noise, the sound levels should decrease gradually. Patients will naturally be allowed to get in a deeper stage of sleep.

Doplor decides whether the sound environment is good or bad and if the nurses should act upon it:

  • When it's silent in the room and nurses can just continue with what they're doing, Doplor shows the nurse "everything is okay"
  • When the sound level is high, but it’s acceptable because of an emergeny, Doplor tells the nurse "don't worry"
  • When the sound level was fine recently, but noise comes rapidly, nurses should “worry a bit”
  • When nurses just keep on talking for example, Doplor changes into dark colours and fast movements: nurses should “worry a lot"

My aim was to design something that could lead to a behavioural change within the intensive care unit, to restore a peaceful environment for patients to recover in.

Roel Redert

UltiMo

Monitoring devices are designed to be a crucial work tool for medical staff at the intensive care unit. Patients and their families are involuntarily exposed to this visual and auditory information while they lack knowledge to interpret or act upon it. This leads to stressful situations for families and disturbing experiences for the patients, especially when clinicians are not present in the room. Therefore, there is a need for a patient monitor that adopts the information on the display to the needs of the ones present in the room.

Patient monitor UltiMo is an intelligent monitor that seamlessly adapts itself by knowing who is present in the room. Is the patient alone? Then, UltiMo puts itself in the silent mode, without the beeps, warnings and diagrams that are difficult to interpret. When family is present, UltiMo gives basic information about the patient’s heartrate. Information that can cause stress for visitors or the patient is only shown to the clinicians. Through a bluetooth beacon on the staff identity card, all vital functions and accompanying sounds will be activated on the screen.

The main function of the monitor is to inform the nurses about their patients’ vitals. Thus, a hierarchy is built in when different types of people are in the patient room. Whenever a clinician walks into the room, even though other people are in there, the monitor overrides other people and shows the clinician’s screen.

Our biggest challenge was to cater to the different user needs. Clinicians and visitors enter a patient room multiple times a day and both have different needs in terms of what is shown on the screen of the patient monitor.

Nitin Gurram, David Schuit, Yuxiang Wang, Shaoyun Wang, Doris Boschma, Anna Gębala, Marek Torbus

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