An interdisciplinary team works to make ‘mask-less visual connections’ possible for infectious disease patients in the COVID-19 era and beyond.
One challenging aspect of care in the COVID-19 era is the state of social and physical isolation—from family members or healthcare providers—experienced by patients.
Recognizing the importance of human connection during a crisis, Jefferson Health still allowed—at the height of the pandemic—a family member or loved one to be at a patient’s side at the end of life or during the birth of a child. Building on that empathetic approach, an interdisciplinary team of administrators, faculty and graduate students has embarked on a mission to make “mask-less visual connections” between infectious disease patients and caregivers, family and visitors possible.
Work will begin this summer to develop a novel physical screen/intervention—called JeffersonSCREEN—with the hope of reducing physical and social isolation of patients during a pandemic while effectively controlling the spread of infection.
The effort, sparked by the University’s provost Dr. Mark Tykocinski, will see research conducted over the summer to define the project’s parameters and a special-topics course in the fall semester to develop design and proof-of-concept prototypes.
JeffersonSCREEN is an incredible opportunity for faculty and students to work across disciplines in developing a much-needed device. —Barbara Klinkhammer
Involved are the College of Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE); the Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce (DEC); Sidney Kimmel Medical College and hospital officials.
While still in the beginning stages of the process, those involved are excited about the potential breakthroughs, which they hope culminates with a timeline for development and deployment of JeffersonSCREEN.
“JeffersonSCREEN is an incredible opportunity for faculty and students to work across disciplines in developing a much-needed device that allows patients to visually interact with their families and caregivers during COVID-19 and beyond,” says Barbara Klinkhammer, executive dean and professor of CABE. “The development of a device that allows patients to visually interact with their families and caregivers while hospitalized with an infectious disease, such as COVID-19, will revolutionize the patient room experience and environment.”
Michael Leonard, dean of Kanbar’s School of Design and Engineering, says he expects a “robust collaboration” in the coming months. Experts on the architecture side will handle structure, placement and space considerations. Textile engineers and designers will aim to develop products that enable patients and family members to be within eyeshot, without masks.
When Dr. Tykocinski spoke about the idea initially, the industrial designer in Mike Leonard immediately started drawing. —Marcia Weiss
“Working together, the team will be able to design products that incorporate new materials and new uses for textile and electronic components and integrate them into the hospital room space in novel ways,” Leonard says. “It is our hope that we will be able to rethink the space and the protective equipment to get out of the way of the patient and visitor person-to-person interaction.”
Marcia Weiss, director of the University’s textile design program, says the aim is to “help patients feel empowered and less isolated.” It plays into overall wellness, be that physical or mental.
She envisions creating a screen that goes around the bed itself, or perhaps around the guest, and hopes that JeffersonSCREEN “can have embedded technology to make it more than the sum of its parts.”
“In the summer, there will be an academic literature review, information gathering, brainstorming and evaluation of opportunities,” Weiss says. “When Dr. Tykocinski spoke about the idea initially, the industrial designer in Mike Leonard immediately started drawing. The realization was that there’s something innovative that can be created so that people can be kept safe, but not isolated.”
Faculty summer research will soon get underway on a mission of reducing social isolation of hospitalized patients.
She notes that while COVID-19 has highlighted the need for such innovations, it extends beyond the pandemic to all infectious disease care.
“When medical personal are dressed in PPE, the patient is fully isolated,” Weiss says. “What we need to determine is how to isolate patients medically, but not isolate them from the humanity of the people around them. We’re looking at this from an open, innovative perspective. What can we create? We’re in the joy of brainstorming currently.”
As things stand, faculty summer research will soon get underway on a mission of reducing social isolation of hospitalized patients. An East Falls faculty team and research assistants will conduct background research, define the problem parameters, develop a framework and gather feedback from relevant Jefferson Health counterparts through regular meetings.
Come fall, a selectively recruited interdisciplinary team of students from textile design, industrial design, engineering, architecture, clinical medicine and additional relevant majors will develop design and proof-of-concept models of the JeffersonSCREEN framework.
The JeffersonSCREEN team also includes faculty members Matthew Gindlesparger and Kihong Ku—both from CABE—and Brian George and Lyn Godley from DEC.