Why the ADHB is letting design students loose at Auckland Hospital

A new collaboration between AUT University and the ADHB sees design students working on patient-friendly innovation

In the middle of level five of Auckland City Hospital sits an unexpected space – exposed pipes, whitewashed walls where the paint peters out half way up, concrete pillars enveloped in tacky carpet.

It’s looks like a services area, or the bit they forgot to finish.

Actually it’s the Design for Health and Wellbeing Lab – a collaboration between AUT University’s design department (hence the trendy, half-completed look) and the Auckland District Health Board.

Here design students of various hues (graphic, industrial, product, even fashion; post- and undergraduate) sit at tables they probably knocked up themselves. And using anything from post-it notes to top-quality 3D printers, they try to find design solutions to the problems faced by patients and staff in a hospital environment.

For example, how to produce an IV drip pole that is less scary for children. Or make a radiation treatment protection gown that’s more practical. Or develop an Emergency Department navigation plan that makes it easier for patients and their families to know what to expect when they turn up at A&E.

Although the design lab was officially opened only yesterday, it was set up in 2014 and already has 90 ideas on the ideas board waiting for action, say co-founders Justin Kennedy Good from the ADHB’s performance improvement programme and Stephen Reay from AUT’s Industrial Design and Innovation department.

Reay says the idea for a design lab within a hospital (a world-first) came from a series of small practical projects that design students worked on for the ADHB, which led to him investigating an empty space next to the Clinical Education Centre.

“We said we’d be in there for a couple of weeks and then we just stayed.”