Students Collaborate, Design Patient Room of Future

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Georgia Tech students are designing the patient rooms of the future, and it's not just architecture students. The "Patient Room of the Future" class allows students from several different disciplines to collaborate on designing rooms for medical facilities that are more patient-and doctor-friendly.

Students are asked to resolve issues that face builders, healthcare facilities managers and designers. The most recent class took field trips to various hospitals and medical facilities where they interviewed staff, patients and their families to see what problems they were having with the current conditions.

The class was the first of its kind at Tech to pair students from the College of Architecture with their peers in health system engineering and nursing students from Emory University.

"I think it was beneficial to have such a diversity of backgrounds in the class because it simulated what we're going to find in the real world," said Joe Attokaren, a graduate student in health systems. "Sometimes in the real world you're going to have to mesh different ways of thinking into what you're doing. In this case, we had to look at several perspectives of the same problem or issue to decide how we wanted to design the room."

Attokaren teamed up with Bo Seo, a Ph.D. student in the College of Architecture, to design a patient room that was more conducive to patients and their families staying for short or long periods of time.0

"We studied family trends on how families use current patient rooms," said Seo. "The rooms didn't always use space efficiently, and we also wanted to plan for what the future needs of families are going to be. Most families will have both parents working. If they want to stay with their spouse in a patient room for an extended amount of time, the rooms need to be designed with this in mind."

Alexis Wismer is a master"s student in health systems who was impressed with her classmates from across campus.

It was interesting to see why all these different disciplines needed to be involved in this project to come up with a solution," said Wismer. "One group alone can't come up with the answer, but when we worked together and listened to one another, we were able to really create some great solutions."

The collaborative class not only had an impact on the students, but also provided a chance for professors to view issues from a different perspective.

"Coming from the engineering background, I was energized by creativity and pushing the edges and design elements that the architects and design majors do," said David Cowan, who helped advise the students with his expertise from the Health Systems Institute. "The engineers kind of brought it back to earth, saying can we build it? Can we pay for this? Does it make sense in the real world? I think that balance was good for both sides. It makes us (engineers) a lot more creative and makes them (architecture and design students) a lot more practical."

Cowan said he and the other professors were pleased with the class and he expects the class will continue.