Responding to worldwide infection prevention needs is becoming increasingly vital as talks of reopening businesses and public venues begin. Even after this initial period of quarantine, protecting ourselves and others from COVID-19 will continue to be a priority in daily life for some time.
In the second part of the MIDI Innovation Vault™ series, MIDI co-owner and President Chris Montalbano expounds upon one of many important factors in understanding and executing infection prevention: Environment. Identifying what environments and what features of those environments allow or encourage the spread of pathogens is crucial to a properly functioning prevention system. By considering the knowledge collected from working in high-risk environments pre-coronavirus, we can pinpoint the first steps towards developing technology and practices that will protect us in our day-to-day lives moving forward.
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, most novel infection prevention methods were designed for and operated in healthcare facilities, namely hospitals. In hospitals, the primary concern in infection prevention is protecting immunocompromised patients from contracting hospital-acquired infections, or HAIs. These patients often have compromised immune systems as a direct result of the treatment they are receiving, and acquiring a HAI can cause serious declines in their condition. Because of this, the hospital units that house these patients are of top priority when addressing infection prevention. Chris specifically identifies oncology units and bone marrow transplant units as examples of such environments.
When working with these environments in the past, MIDI made use of their DevelopmentDNA™ discovery research approach to identify the areas that required the most protection or sanitization. To better understand highly trafficked areas, VoC or Voice of Customer was deployed in contextual immersion studies based on healthcare stakeholder workflow tied to high vector touchpoints. Using this information, MIDI was able to visualize patterns in stakeholder’s behavior through the creation of spatial, temporal flow maps. Armed with this data, the conceptualization portion of the DevelopmentDNA™ approach was used to develop concepts that used cutting edge technology to sanitize areas of interest. These concepts implemented automated or semi-automated devices that allowed healthcare stakeholders to participate in infection prevention passively without interrupting their workflow. One such solution, mentioned in part one of this series, is the FlooRx, a floor mounted UVC LED system that kills pathogens on the soles of footwear, preventing contamination of sterile areas.
Additionally, what MIDI has found, according to Chris, is that VoC intel gathered from hospital staff during these studies has also been useful in devising the environments and specific areas that require extra attention to prevent infection spread outside of healthcare facilities. Many hospital staff members expressed concern about carrying pathogens on their shoes, clothing, cell phones, and other surfaces to their home, potentially infecting family members. They wanted intuitive disinfection solutions for the workplace but wanted the ability to use those solutions when going home as well. And indeed, studies have confirmed that pathogens can be carried home. This concern, and the kinds of technology devised to address it, are the first steps towards understanding how to take infection prevention out of hospitals and into our everyday lives and interactions.
The Next Steps
The outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in a massive and rapid change to our way of life. The ways and places that we shop, travel, and work have been dramatically altered, and will continue to require alterations in the future. Considering how resilient and contagious coronavirus has proven to be, one person can potentially expose hundreds without even being sick themselves through the spread of pathogens. As we continue our efforts to fight the “invisible enemy”, one of the most important first steps in widespread infection prevention will be examining public environments and their most highly trafficked areas. Examples of this cited by Chris are office spaces, travel venues like airports and train stations, shopping venues like malls and grocery stores, restaurants, and entertainment locations. The locations can also be more specific, like elevators or stairwells.
Next, high vector touchpoints must be identified in those environments. These include entryways, door handles, points of payment, and ordering counters, among other frequently contacted spaces and objects. Addressing infection prevention in these environments through things like novel sanitization methods will be crucial as coronavirus continues to be a threat. Particularly, responding to these needs will be key to making sure that it is safe to resume operations across the country post-quarantine.
MIDI Medical Product Development and their team of engineers, usability experts, and industrial designers are poised to gather this information and act upon it with speed and flexibility. Through the DevelopmentDNA™ process, their team can approach the issue on a step-by-step basis, from market studies, through conceptualization, prototype implementation, verification, and interim field validation with final commercialization. This allows for the creation of a device development roadmap that addresses all relevant requirements for product development and executes upon them with agility and rapidity. Chris predicts that the key to rapid response in infection prevention needs will be conceptual solutions based on research that are expediently and strategically commercialized. In responding to this need, MIDI stands at the forefront of true blue ocean market opportunities that stand to make real change in the world.
Stay tuned for part three of MIDI Innovation Vault™, which will discuss automated versus semi-automated infection prevention.