The Haga Hospital in the Netherlands and Siemens Healthineers will build an MRI ablation center for the treatment of cardiac arrhythmias in 2019. An innovative project, unique in the Benelux, with the aim of making catheter ablation more efficient and accurate through the use of MRI imaging. But how do you, as a medical professional (the user), assess the design of a complex center, where processes take place that are (partially) new to you and where there are no examples of how to learn from? Panton built a 1-on-1 mock-up from cardboard. We organized and supervised the evaluation session, in which we examined  with users whether they can perform the most important processes safely and comfortably.

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The innovative character of the center and the procedures that will take place there, raise questions among users that can still be included in the design of the spaces. Will all the necessary equipment fit into the rooms? And how should it be placed so that, for example, the electrophysiologist and his team can work safely? Can the users quickly move the patient from one intervention room to another on the large mobile operating table during a resuscitation?

Scenarios

Evaluating the spaces began to bring the mapping of key regular use scenarios. Which users are involved, who performs which procedures, and in what order, and which medical equipment is used for this? It is also important to determine the critical scenarios, for example, a resuscitation with bail-out to another room. Based on these key regular and critical scenarios, it also becomes clear what should and should not be simulated in the mock-up and what should be built as realistic as possible. In a quick bailout, the width of a doorway is important, so it should be included as realistic as possible.

Advanced paper prototyping

The two intervention rooms with control and preparation areas were built 1-on-1 in a sports hall from cardboard and furnished with the medical equipment and furniture. Windows, doors, and pendulums were simulated. An inflatable MRI and a wooden mobile OR table were used. As many as 150 cardboard boxes and 2 km of paper tape were needed.

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Realistic simulations

Although you can simulate a lot in cardboard, we used real medical equipment in the mock-up. This provides the most clarity about the actual space required and it is easier for the users to empathise with the scenarios and to act out scenarios realistically.

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3 Tips

The evaluation session helped users to engage in targeted discussions about various design issues and offered designers insight into the work processes in the spaces. Alternatives and new ideas could be explored on the spot. Numerous other insights about the procedures also emerged. These form input for the rest of the design process.

Below our 3 most important tips for a successful mock-up:

  • Make the team and equipment as real as possible. Invite the people who will actually have to work in rooms. They are experts who can provide the most valuable feedback. Also, make sure the medical equipment is as real as possible. You will only discover that a user can trip over a cable if that cable is present in the mock-up.
  • Realistic feeling of space. Give walls a realistic height and use openings for doors and windows. A wall of cardboard gives a more realistic feeling of space than a line on the floor. It also prevents users from accidentally or unconsciously stepping through ‘a wall’.
  • Focus! Many aspects play a role in the design of these types of complex spaces. Therefore, determine in advance exactly what you want to find out and focus on it. Make sure that all other aspects that are mentioned and may be relevant are noted so that they can be returned to later in the design process.

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