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  • 04.30.09

Stopping Swine Flu Through Better Design [UPDATED]

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.

Stopping Swine Flu Through Better Design [UPDATED]

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. 

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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:

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The new toilet has just 10 moving parts, rather than the 40 that you’d typically find:

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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:

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It seems obvious, but another clean strategy is to make sanitation supplies ubiquitous, conspicuous, and easy to reach:

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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:

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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.

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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.

[Via The Guardian and Core 77]

About the author

Cliff is director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.

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