Diagnosis within a minute

How can you identify delirium in time? The umc Utrecht had the medical expertise, but not any practical applications. At their own expense, industrial design agency npk designed a device that is beneficial to the healthcare sector.

Half of the patients who are admitted to an intensive care unit and a quarter of all older hospital patients suffer from delirium: acute confusion, anxiety and hallucinations or even complete apathy. Delirium slows down recovery and can have serious, lasting side effects. Unfortunately, making the correct diagnosis had so far proved difficult and time consuming. The nursing staff had to work through long questionnaires on a daily basis, and even then, the outcome was not always clear.

Medical technician Willemijn van der Kooij discovered that it could be done differently. A simple eeg scan with only three (instead of 21) electrode patches seemed to provide conclusive results. The next challenge was to make the scan easy to perform, which is not yet the case with standard eeg equipment. Industrial design agency npk stepped in at their own expense and started searching for a manageable, reliable and affordable solution. “The umc had the medical knowledge, but our challenge was to translate that to the user and the market,” says designer Jos Oberdorf.

An intensive search led to a fairly simple solution. According to Oberdorf, “That’s the beauty of it.” A disposable strip is stuck to the forehead and the relevant brain activity is displayed on the related device in under a minute. “It is comparable to taking someone’s temperature,” explains Oberdorf. “Accessibility is an essential requirement for the success of this product. We approached the design from the perspective of the comfort of the patient and the convenience of the nurse.” The world’s first delirium monitor is now in the validation and testing phase. The preliminary results look promising.

www.npk.nl | www.umcutrecht.nl