As a collective group, patients represent a very unique and diverse user typology with a wide range of variables that must be accounted for in any design response. For many patients, being in the hospital can be the worst experience of their life. In many instances, patients are physically limited or disabled, causing them to be confined to a fixed location (such as a hospital bed) for a long duration of time. Physical discomfort and mobility limitations are typically accompanied by negative emotions, such as a sense of vulnerability, detachment, inadequacy and depression.
The Patient Companion (PCU) has the ability to positively impact this large, diverse user group because it creates a new platform for engagement. The design combines two ubiquitous elements, an overbed table and a touchscreen tablet, to form a single piece of mobile furniture that could be utilized in a wide range of healthcare settings. The crux of the design is a hybrid tabletop surface that provides traditional dining functionality on one side, and is rotated to reveal an integrated tablet on the other. The touchscreen surface empowers patients by providing a platform for access to educational content, connections to the community through social networking and environmental control of systems, such as temperature, audio and lighting.
Because of its mobility and ubiquity throughout healthcare, the PCU has a large potential to empower patients with its inclusive design. Increased patient education has been shown to reduce the number of readmissions and produce better medical outcomes, and can be used to more effectively provide a continuum of care. Connection to community via social media and video conferencing can combat the negative emotional effects of the healthcare experience and setup a support network beyond the hospital to encourage personal health engagement. Finally, increasing the patient’s level of comfort and control is a critical factor in the overall perception of the healthcare experience, and can lead to higher satisfaction rates and improved medical outcomes. The PCU also features several additional details that are geared towards improving the patient experience, including a streamlined formfactor for ease of infection control, access to power for personal device charging and electronic lifting for improved ergonomics.