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Patients drive design of dialysis chair chosen as finalist in The Big Idea innovation challenge

Comfort key for patients in design of dialysis chair

June 2019

Patients drive design of dialysis chair chosen as finalist in The Big Idea innovation challenge

Patients drive design of dialysis chair chosen as finalist in The Big Idea innovation challenge

Miguel Lopez spends a lot of time sitting in chairs.

“The ultimate chair should be all about comfort,” he said.

Miguel has kidney dialysis up to four times a week and each session is close to four hours.

“That’s a long time to sit hooked up to a machine.

“The chairs need to be simple for patients to use, have better cushioned seats and backrests, and have easily adjustable head, arm and foot rests.

“It would be great to be able to plug-in my laptop or charge my mobile phone. And, to have a cup-holder or a fold-away table. And a hook to hang my bag on,” Miguel said.

Miguel was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease as a child. Now 52, he has had three kidney transplants at RPA. The last kidney had to be removed later for medical reasons and Miguel now relies on regular renal dialysis to survive.

“It’s my lifeline. Sometimes, it feels like life is passing me by because I need to spend so much time sitting in a chair having dialysis,” he said.

Sydney Local Health District’s Director of Renal Medicine Professor Steve Chadban saw the discomfort being experienced by dialysis patients such as Miguel and decided to take action.

Professor Chadban and his team are one of five finalists for The Big Idea – a challenge run by Sydney Research that focuses on using innovation to translate cutting-edge research into practice – to improve the health and wellbeing of patients.

The Big Idea provides up to $45,000 funding to be used in the development of the idea that is considered to have commercial potential. The winner will also receive $25,000 in services from industry partner IDE Group.

There is also a People’s Choice prize up for grabs.

Professor Chadban said there are 100 dialysis chairs across the District being used by more than 400 dialysis patients. Each patient sits in them for about 15 hours a week.

“Surveys consistently show patients who have dialysis have a poorer quality of life, when compared to the general population.

“When we asked our patients about the aspects of dialysis that causes them the most concern, the chairs was the most frequent response,” he said.

As a result, Professor Chadban and his team consulted patients, dialysis nurses and doctors about the design, functions and features needed to make a better chair and improve the lives of patients.

“It would be great to have purpose-built chairs for the comfort of dialysis patients,” Nursing Unit Manager Kim Grimley said.

“For nurses caring for our dialysis patients, it would be great if the chairs were able to be more easily positioned, operated and adjusted.”

Now, Professor Chadban’s team has collaborated with a Sydney-based industrial design firm to create a prototype for a new chair. And, they’ve worked with a chair manufacturer to source the materials and electronic and mechanical components for it.

“It’s called the Deluxe Medical Chair or DMC. We now need to build a prototype, test it to see how it compares to others on the market and optimise the design if needed. Initially, our aim is to make 100 chairs for use in the District from mid-2020.

“The chair has a potential for use beyond dialysis. It could be adapted for use in many areas including oncology and infusion centres. We predict that the demand for the chair across the health care sector, in Australia and across the globe, will be substantial,” Professor Chadban said.

It’s estimated it’ll cost up to $200,000 to produce a prototype and up to $500,000 to manufacture an initial 100 chairs.

The team hopes to secure funding through grants to partially offset the cost of designing and building the chairs.

Professor Chadban and his team will present their idea The Big Idea’s judging panel during the Sydney Innovation and Research Symposium.

The other finalists and their Big Ideas are:

  • Professor Philip Hogg: Real-time assessment of treatment response in oncology
  • Dr Shaheen Hasmat: BLINC: an implantable device to actively restore blink
  • Gustavo Machado: The STARS Musculoskeletal App and
  • Tamera Jo Corte: Living Well with Pulmonary Fibrosis

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