Healthcare on the Move

London, 6–8 April 2009

Healthcare on the Move, London
Healthcare on the Move, London

Royal College of Art Exhibition Offers Crucial Insight into Revolution in Mobile Healthcare

Smart Pods, a joint Royal College of Art and Loughborough University-led research project to facilitate the delivery of urgent healthcare, is featuring in a unique exhibition on mobile healthcare being held at the Royal College of Art this April.

Recently selected as one of its top research projects by key UK funding body the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the two-year project involves designers from the Royal College of Art as well as academics from Loughborough University and the Universities of the West of England, Bath and Plymouth.

Research shows that up to 50% of patients currently taken to hospital following a 999 call could instead be treated at home if the correct supporting and enabling technologies were in place. Since 2001, government policy has created a new style of urgent healthcare provision to support the vision of a healthcare service designed around the patient.

Healthcare professionals called Emergency Care Practitioners (ECPs) have received special training to assess and treat patients on-the-spot. However research into new technologies needed to support this new role is still lagging behind government policy.

The exhibition at the Royal College of Art, called Healthcare on the Move, attempts to readdress this discrepancy by showcasing new directions in the delivery of mobile treatment solutions. These will enable ECPs and other healthcare professionals to assess and treat more people in the community, instead of taking them by ambulance to hospital.

With the NHS being subjected to ever increasing demands across all of its services, new measures to free up valuable resources are required. Not only would on-the-spot care mean quicker treatment for patients, with a resultant increase of positive outcomes; it would also relieve the strain on emergency departments and hospital resources generally.

Although ECPs have the skills to provide such a service, emergency vehicles have not evolved to provide the necessary facilities. Healthcare on the Move focuses on an investigation into a range of revolutionary portable and mobile technologies that transcend the limitations of current ambulance vehicles and equipment.

The ‘Smart Pods’ concept includes a suite of proposals for radical new features and design innovations that facilitate delivery of mobile healthcare. These include 360° access to the patient, incorporation of more modularised/portable equipment and treatment packages, plus greater portability, flexibility and adaptability of the treatment space itself.

A range of scale models of potential Smart Pod designs as envisaged by current RCA Masters Vehicle Design students will be on display. These ‘blue-sky’ designs are to demonstrate key benefits that next-generation technology of this type could provide. In addition, a full-scale mock-up of a standard ambulance interior will highlight current design opportunities.

Professor Dale Harrow, Head of the Department of Vehicle Design and Principle Investigator on the project says: “Our research shows that delivering urgent healthcare more efficiently and effectively poses a range of challenges. But it also presents many opportunities – especially in terms of improving the patient experience, safety of the patients and staff, fewer journeys and a reduced carbon footprint.”


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