Project Safeguard: Mobile test facilities in the fight against COVID-19

Do you remember...? Spring 2020, the first COVID-19 wave took us by surprise. The lack of knowledge about the virus, but also the unavailability of personal protective equipment made the work of GPs very complex.

The initial question came from general practitioner Pieter van der Staay in Hoogvliet.

Some COVID-19 patients require additional tests, such as measuring oxygen saturation, CRP, respiratory and cardiac rate, and body temperature. Whenever these measurements have to be taken, either at the practice or during a home visit, the GP must use personal protective equipment. But there was a great shortage of these resources. In addition, patients and staff must be protected from becoming infected with COVID-19, and changing protective equipment again and again is very time-consuming. This led GP van der Staay to approach Industrial Design and Technical Medicine students from Delft University of Technology to work with manufacturers and Star-shl to develop a better way of providing safe diagnostics without the need for personal protective equipment for the caregiver.

This gave rise to Project Safeguard with the aim of using innovative solutions to test patients suspected of being infected with COVID-19 in the practice or at home, to carry out diagnostics without the use of scarce personal protective equipment. Design teams worked on two concepts: MediTent and MediScreen.

MediScreen was further developed with the help of Star-shl.

The physical separation between doctor and patient is achieved by means of a mobile transparent wall. In this way, doctor and patient can see and hear each other and tests can be carried out safely without the use of scarce PPE. The patient’s side is easy to clean, so there is no risk of contamination for other patients.

The prototype was extensively evaluated and tested by microbiologists from Star-shl and staff from the blood collection department. For example, many adjustments have been made to optimise both the safety and the manageability of the screen. Because the number of infections fell sharply in the summer, a validation and pilot with patients was not feasible. As an alternative, the students used the screen at the homes of 18 people and carried out the necessary diagnostics. The conclusion is that, with some adjustments, MediScreen can be used for home measurements.

GP van der Staay uses a variant of MediTent in his practice, which was developed in cooperation with a design team from IO, the company Delmic and the Dordrecht out-of-hours GP cooperative.

“I am very satisfied. It makes me flexible in my actions. Patients enter via a separate entrance and I can see suspected COVID-19 patients in between consultations with other patients. Protective clothing is not needed and other patients and caregivers will not be infected.”

Cooperation with students

Project Safeguard is characterised by multidisciplinary cooperation between various departments of the university, manufacturers, general practitioners and Star-shl. We found this cooperation inspiring and we are also very impressed by the enthusiasm, brainpower and perseverance of the Master’s students involved. It has taught us to look at and tackle challenges differently. We would certainly like to continue the cooperation and have already picked up another project for 2021.