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Students produce creative healthcare solutions at the First Design4Health Boot Camp
Engineering undergraduate students from American University of Sharjah (AUS) took part in the first Design4Health Boot Camp, a collaborative event hosted by AUS, Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) and Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI).
Three teams of students each comprising a mix of students from the three institutions met-up with a number of healthcare providers to understand the challenges of healthcare provision and to come up with creative solutions to address them.
During the week-long boot camp, the students participated in various training sessions in brainstorming, planning, and designing.
“The problem we were asked to address was evaluating hospital services and patient response. We came up with a smartwatch that the patient would wear once they checked into the hospital,” said Donthi Sankalpa, a computer engineering senior at AUS. “So, at each step the patients are asked to evaluate the services they are provided. Once the patients are out of the waiting room, they are asked to evaluate their experience with the reception and waiting, then when they meet the doctor, the testing, the billing and so on.”
The team worked with King’s College Hospital in Dubai where they met with the general manager to understand more about the workings of the hospital and challenges facing it.
A basic prototype of the watch was developed. “The most interesting thing about this experience is that I got to work with students from different majors, not only engineering, so we had medical and design students in the team. This helped diversify the way we work. So as engineers we think of practicality, but designers think of creativity, and medical students think of functionality,” said Sankalpa.
Another challenge facing healthcare providers is patients who do not keep their appointments— “no-show patients”. Two teams worked on tackling the issue from different perspectives. While one focused on creating an application for patients to use, the other focused on the aspect of awareness.
“We provided two types of solutions,” said Wasif Kiyani, a computer engineering major at AUS. “A low effort solution that focused on restructuring the SMS system that allows patients to access a link and cancel their appointments, and a high effort solution that involved designing a phone application that patients can download and access when they want to cancel their appointments. The idea is for this application to develop further down the line to include access to other hospital services.”
Meanwhile, the second team that worked on same issue preferred to focus on raising patients’ awareness about the importance of cancelling their appointments when they are unable to attend. “Our focus was on patient messaging inside the hospitals. This included designing posters and writing messages on stationary, cups and so on,” said Rasha Darra, a chemistry and chemical engineering junior at AUS.
“We met up with representatives from Mediclinic Parkview Hospital to understand the problems they were facing. The hospital is relatively new and they wanted us to come up with creative solutions. As a team, it was the first time for all of us to meet and work together but soon we developed a team spirit and started working as one unit.”
Students who participated in the boot camp said they learned a lot from working with students from other universities and different majors.
“I would definitely recommend this experience to other undergraduate students and I would say do it early in your studies because that will give you an opportunity to think about what you can do for your graduation project,” said Sankalpa.
Darra echoed her sentiments noting that another boot camp is expected to be held during Spring Break, which she encouraged students to go for. “Not only is it fun, but also a good place to meet new people from different majors and backgrounds that you will have to work with. This will make you look at problems from a wide variety of angles,” she said.
Commenting on the importance of the workshop, Dr. Fadi Aloul, Head of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and Professor of Computer Engineering at AUS, said, “This event is a collaborative effort and it gives students the opportunity to learn new skills and broaden their network and understanding of other majors and professional needs. It encourages them to come up with creative solutions for everyday life problems encountered by various industries.”