A new handheld device designed to make calling the nurse easier for people living in aged care with limited dexterity or arthritis, could be on the market within a couple of months.
University of South Australia design graduates Daniel Weiss and Robert White paired up with two of their lecturers, Dr Peter Schumacher and adjunct senior lecturer Sandy Walker, to come up with the award winning emergency call device as part of an incubator program with Hills Industries Innovation Centre, in South Australia.
“It’s something that’s found in every room, in every aged care residency, which people use to call for help.
“Usually it’s activated by the thumb which can be quite hard if you have arthritis,” said Robert White.
He said the idea for the redesign came about through the university’s collaboration with the Hills Industries Innovation Centre who had heard there was a need for an improved nurse’s call button.
“It wasn’t an engineering problem so much as a design problem,” said White.
“We should be looking at this as an enormous opportunity to lead the world in innovative design for ageing communities.” Peter Schumacher.
The team drew inspiration from a travel shampoo bottle, replacing the hard to press call button with a soft silicon bulb, which can be easily pressed with the palm of the hand or pushed against a wall to activate.
In consultation with physiotherapists, nurses, aged care workers and residents at Eldercare – an aged care facility in South Australia – they developed a prototype for testing.
“There’s no way we could have done it without the feedback of the users,” said the University of South Australia’s industrial design program director Dr Peter Schumacher.
“When we talked to people in aged care, they were extremely interested in what ways new technology could improve patient care.
“They were gasping for it, and we were just surprised that some of the tools and technology that they have wasn’t very good.
“A lot of the technology was making life difficult for people to do their job; it was difficult to operate and people were getting frustrated by it, so we wanted to improve their work environment and the lives of people who were aging,” he said.
He said working with Hills’ manufacturing arm, Hills Health Solutions, made it easier for the team to focus on quality design, while ensuring the materials and the manufacturing was sourced locally.
It’s not the first time the design graduates Daniel Weiss and Robert White have worked together in the field of medical industrial design.
While completing their Masters of Industrial Design in 2012, the pair developed a medical training device for paramedics and emergency personnel to learn how to perform a cricothyrotomy (a procedure for opening a patient’s throat to clear their airways).
White said that designing devices to solve problems posed by an ageing population was a care was a growth area.
“As everybody is aware we have an aging population so it’s a good space to be in with a lot of opportunity for innovation in the future,” he said.
Schumacher said the nurses call button has set a benchmark for well-designed aged care products.
“We should be looking at this as an enormous opportunity to lead the world in innovative design for ageing communities,” said Schumacher.
“Projects like this generate jobs, but there is so much potential in aged and health care to find solutions and improvements that have really broad and important applications in improving the lives of older people,” he said.
The nurse’s call button is expected to be ready for sale and distribution in the coming months.
University of South Australia design graduate
+61 419 853 955
Dr Peter Schumaker
Industrial Design program director
University of South Australia
Ph: +61 8 8302 0361 / +61 424 510 288