Harvard GSD collaborates with local hospitals on novel personal protective equipment

Boston Medical

Harvard GSD collaborates with local hospitals on novel personal protective equipment

Doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital have been testing Harvard GSD-designed patient isolation hoods the first prototypes were delivered on April 14. (Courtesy Harvard GSD)

An unlikely collaboration led by members of the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) and two Boston-based hospitals—Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital—has resulted in the development of a new medical device designed to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus within the hospital setting. As a form of personal protective equipment (PPE), the patient isolation hood (PIH) is a transparent armature that fits over a coronavirus patient’s head and shoulders to allow hospital staff to provide healthcare without the risk of airborne contagions

Eric Höweler, an associate professor at the GSD and co-partner of Howeler + Yoon Architecture, has taken the role of the initiative’s design critic and shared its progress in last Friday’s Trading Notes conversation, titled “Supplying the Front Line,” hosted by AN.

Members of GSD developed two PIH prototypes that differently addressed the clinical requirements described by hospital staff, including apertures that allow doctors to insert breathing tubes or attach ventilators. Both prototypes were designed to avoid placing rigid structures on the patient while including a ‘negative air pressure’ system, which redirects infectious aerosol particles within the PIH, as well as two holes just large enough for doctors to insert their arms and access their patients’ respiratory systems. The prototypes were conceptualized, modeled, and fabricated for a full week prior to being sent to Massachusetts General Hospital on April 14. The design team hopes to receive feedback in time to produce an additional 20-30 PIHs for the hospital’s intensive care unit prior to an anticipated peak in coronavirus-related hospitalizations in Massachusetts in the last week of April.

The collaboration began through the Center for COVID Innovation, an initiative developed by Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, whose mission is to “facilitate the development of new innovations that flatten the COVID-19 curve and protect front line clinical staff across the MGB community and beyond,” according to its website. “Architects need to be more involved with health care innovation,” said Dr. Samuel Smith, an anesthesiologist at MGH and instructor at Harvard Medical School to the Harvard GSD News, “and my colleagues need to understand that design matters.”

The final design for the PIH will be open-sourced to allow other manufacturing facilities to rapidly produce them for their own communities.