Academics and graduates have joined forces to create a transportation device which will give children with complex healthcare needs a new sense of freedom and independence.
The team from Edinburgh Napier went to work after learning of a case where a young child had to drag around a ventilator on a makeshift platform on wheels while she moved around her home and school.
The skateboard-style platform allowed the breathing machine to be moved around with her, but it caused tugging on the tubing attached to her tracheostomy; the opening created to allow the tube to be inserted into the windpipe. It also meant someone had to walk alongside the child while she was on the move.
The University’s SOLUTION project – which sees a multi-disciplinary team take on healthcare challenges and problems - has now created an alternative transportation device which is easier to pull and manoeuvre, keeps the ventilator and battery secure, and features a strain relief clip on the belt attachment which prevents pulling on the tube.
The hands free device, which allows much greater freedom of movement, has been given to the child and her delighted support workers, and the project team is now in talks with a UK company about developing the idea to help other patients, children and adults, who need home ventilation.
The design work was largely done by Cameron Perrie, a design graduate who is part of the SOLUTION project, supervised by Edinburgh Napier academics Will Titley and the late Ian Hunt, specialists in product design and engineering respectively. The team also liaised with the NHS and Edinburgh-based i4 Product Design during development of the device, which has the working name VT-One.
Will said: “Getting the vehicle made was a major challenge. The team had to work out how to 3D print it in eight parts and to successfully piece it together.
“However, the device will now give the girl some independence. It can be manoeuvred across all sorts of terrain and will not hinder her at school or playing with friends, and it will also reduce the risk of injury by preventing pulling on the tubing.”
Will added: “We hope to build sensing technology into later prototypes.”
The SOLUTION project was launched after Edinburgh Napier’s Associate Professor Liz Adamson, from the School of Health & Social Care, noted the difficulties faced by patients with long-term conditions such as those who need eye drops and find the small plastic bottles difficult to handle.
The aim of the project is to use experts from a range of disciplines to find practical solutions to healthcare problems identified by NHS staff and members of the public.
Liz, who leads SOLUTION, said: “It is hugely rewarding to see a child’s mobility being dramatically improved as a result of the project, and the work has the potential to benefit many more both nationally and internationally.
“It is also very satisfying to see the way our graduates have developed within their discipline as a result of their involvement in real world problem solving.”
Grahame Cumming, Innovation Champion, NHS Lothian, said: “This is a great example of the power of the open innovation process, where constraints to healthy living identified by patients and staff can be analysed in collaboration with partners, such as the academic staff at Edinburgh Napier, to then develop cost effective solutions to improve the quality of life for patients.
“I know how important it is that children with complex healthcare needs are provided with every chance to maximise their opportunities to engage in education and activities that support exercise to help improve the quality of their lives.”
View a short video clip of the device in action