AM30 is a new type of ambulance interior designed to provide a ground breaking treatment and care space for the paramedics and their patients in terms of functionality and safety. This new interior layout provides a more flexible and ergonomic interior architecture for the different treatment situations and scenarios that can take place inside an ambulance during a working day.
A major inspiration for this design was the following quote from the manager at the Umeå ambulance station "To fully reach around the patient safely without unbuckling or changing the size of our ambulance would be ideal".
AM30 offers support to the paramedics when they need it the most, and it will keep them safe during the most critical treatment situations, where they today are forced to put themselves into harms way in order to save the lives of others. Research showed that in life-threatening situations at least two paramedics have to work around the patient to provide CPR, this without the possibility to be supported by a seat or protected by a seat belt. All of this will take place while the ambulance will be moving the fastest, in sometimes crowded traffic situations and challenging weather conditions.
The AM30 interior has been designed so it will fit within the existing dimensions of the ambulances most commonly used in Scandinavia today. For this project the opportunity for semi-autonomous drive mode was also explored, enabling the possibility of two paramedics treating the patient in life-threatening situations while the ambulance finds the way back to the hospital.
The new optimized interior offers an unseen level of flexibility and possibilities to adjust and re-arrange the care environment depending on the patient and paramedics needs. The positioning of the stretcher can be changed from side to side inside the ambulance, depending on which side of the patient that demands particular attention and care. The paramedics will have three flexible seats to choose from, making it possible for them to address the full body of the patient while they are safely seated, at the same time as they will be able to reach the equipment needed without unbuckling the seat belt.
This project's main focus was on human centered design and about investigating new solutions for paramedics in their everyday work life. The project was made in collaboration with the paramedics from the ambulance station in Umeå with whom a constant dialogue with feedback and input was maintained. Laerdal Medical, a major manufacturer of medical equipment and with experience in design of medical technical solutions, was the external collaborative partner throughout the project.
The project was introduced with a field trip to the ambulance station to explore the complexity and wide variety of the work of paramedics. During the initial visits we had the opportunity to interview paramedics, observe their work methods and their everyday tasks. We got a bigger understanding of their professional needs and left with new experiences and potential areas to investigate in further detail.
Problems & Solutions
Working on the inside of an ambulance is a very extreme and potentially dangerous environment to treat a patient in. At a first look it might seem harmless and secure. After four days of participatory observations and 28 call-outs inside the ambulance, it was obvious that there were limitations with the present interior and obvious design opportunities to pursue.
During high-speed transportation the paramedics can be forced to unbuckle from their seat belts in order to be able to reach for equipment or to reach and provide care for different parts of the patient's body. In case of a traffic accident not only is it the paramedic that risks being seriously injured but the patient as well.
Depending on how injured the patient is, there are cases when a whole team of paramedics are required to treat the patient to keep him/her alive. In these situations current ambulance interiors are not flexible enough to fit a whole team inside, which means that the paramedics rather treat the patient outdoors even when the environmental conditions (bad weather, no optimal work light, crowded areas, tight streets, exposed areas etc.) are potentially compromising the treatment. This insight was shared by Samy Sadek, an experienced doctor working at the Air Ambulance in London: "Working outside could be dangerous without proper protection. We could use the ambulance but several people can't fit in there nor reach around the patient".
The identified problem areas were divided into three main categories; safety, flexibility and multitasking. The core idea to solve the safety issues was to make the work environment and more specifically making the seat able to slide within the interior so the paramedics can reach all parts of the patient and interior without having to unbuckle and expose themselves to dangers.If the paramedics can freely move within the interior while still being safely secured, they can work much more flexible without risking their own lives or the life of the patient. Since both the stretcher and the seats are movable in integrated rail systems, the paramedics can rearrange the interior to fit their specific needs. If a lot of space is needed around the patient on the stretcher, all the seats can quickly be folded flat along the interior walls. If a paramedic needs access to the left side of the patient's body, the stretcher can be moved all the way to the right side to comfortably allow the paramedic to come even closer to the patient, without having to awkwardly lean over the patient as the paramedics have to do today. These are just some of the interior configurations that the paramedics could use to help them treat their patients in the best and most efficient ways possible.
If AM30 interior would be applied in a semi-autonomous vehicle platform in the future, it would even be possible for a standard sized team of two paramedics to care for the patient in life-threatening situations where more than one paramedic is required during the treatment. The paramedics could then allow the ambulance to drive itself instead of waiting for another paramedic to arrive to the site to drive the ambulance back to the hospital, like it has to be done today.
One of the main demarcations and challenges was to create the AM30 interior so it would fit and function within the existing dimensions of the ambulances most commonly used in Scandinavia today. The consequences of merely increasing the size of the ambulance would mean that it would be even more difficult for the paramedics to maneuver their vehicles through narrow streets or in tight traffic situations. A larger fleet of ambulances would also mean that the paramedics would need special drivers licenses for these oversized vehicles, which would result in additional costs to the ambulance stations with multiple ambulances on call.
To make this concept possible a holistic approach had to be used throughout the whole project. The current layout with the stretcher and the paramedic's seats and where the storage of equipment could be stored had to be changed and rethought. AM30 is a concept of the next generation ambulance interior that offers unseen flexibility and the workspace the paramedics need without any changes to the size of the current ambulances most commonly used by the ambulance services in Scandinavia. It is a realistic concept on how mobile healthcare could look like tomorrow and should look like in the future.
Great statement of a real problem for real people. Appropriately focuses on usability and ergonomics. Leverages research done with actual users.