A central front in the war on super bugs like swine flu is hospitals themselves--they're crowded with nooks that can shelter disease, and frequently become vectors for outbreaks. This week, Britain's Design Council unveiled a slew of re-engineered objects that you'd find in a hospital ward, from cabinets to mattresses to toilets. Here's a round-up of the clever solutions they created.
All of the pieces are designed for sanitation.
These chairs, for example, has a smooth, plastic frame with a continuous surface and cushions attached only with magnets--thus eliminating the crannies you'd find on most chairs, making the chair easy to clean and less likely to shelter pathogens:
The new toilet has just 10 moving parts, rather than the 40 that you'd typically find:
This cabinet has easy-to-clean surfaces, and an RFID locking mechanism that does away with keys--thus removing several touchpoints where disease can spread:
It seems obvious, but another clean strategy is to make sanitation supplies ubiquitous, conspicuous, and easy to reach:
A totally smooth, easy to clean blood-pressure sleeve--necessarily because they pass from patient to patient, and are frequently made of nylon that hides bacteria:
Other prototypes include a plastic-coated mattress that changes colors when it's exposed to body fluids, and a curtain with clip-on "grab zones" that are easily removed and washed. The designs are expected to enter trials next year.
To create the furnishings, the Design Council--a publicly funded coalition of designers, which works on pubic-sector design problems--talked with dozens of doctors and nurses and watched them work. The problem is about as dire as design problems get: Hospitals are breeding grounds for superbugs such as MRSA. In fact, hospital-based infection control has already been tagged as a key to containing the Swine Flu.
You can see more pictures at the Design Council's FLICKR page here.