On Friday, St. Vrain Valley Schools District high school students stood up in front of a six-person panel, plus an audience, at the Innovation Center to present the details of the design development of futuristic solutions to address challenges in the healthcare industry.
The Hospital Room of the Future Challenge was part of a partnership between SVVSD’s Innovation Center and UCHealth, according to a press release.
This is the first challenge of its kind for SVVSD.
Students had the opportunity to tour UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital in Longmont, see patient rooms, an operating room, the emergency department and a birthing suite, and talk with patients, doctors, nurses and other staff, the release stated.
The project began in the fall of 2019, according to Michelle Kennedy, bioscience teacher at the Innovation Center and project teacher lead.
Fifteen high school students designed and developed four solutions that they researched and gathered feedback on from staff in the medical field, she said.
“We’re really looking for ways for students to think about medical technology specifically in the future,” Kennedy said. “UCHealth was very interested in getting students involved in visualizing what a hospital room or what a medical tech could look like in five, ten or 15 years down the line.”
The innovations presented consisted of an intensive care unit room designed to improve patient, staff and family comfort, a monitoring device that could allow cardiac arrest patients to recover in the comfort of their own homes, a pair of glasses with the potential to help nurses prioritize alarms and the winner of the challenge, a common utility transport entity, or C.U.T.E. — an autonomous food delivery-robot.
“I’m honestly really surprised,” said Jocelyn Gunn, C.U.T.E. team member and senior at Niwot High School. “We put a lot of effort into this design but seeing everyone else’s amazing design, it is just such an honor to be chosen among everyone’s amazing designs.”
Alex Miller, C.U.T.E. team member and senior at Erie High School, said he learned things from his participation in the project that he hopes to bring into his professional career once he graduates, seeking to “continually try to make this a possibility for actual hospitals.”
For Ryan Velarde, junior at Erie High School, his favorite part was the opportunity to design solutions that can have real-life applications, he said. “(To) actually engineer a proper working prototype and actually be able to market it to a real audience instead of just a mock presentation.”
Real-life innovation is what the challenge was all about, according to Richard Zane, emergency medicine physician and UCHealth Chief Innovation Officer.
The innovation team at UCHealth, including medical staff, virtual health staff and the president of the Longs Peak and Broomfield hospitals, is invested in ways to bring young people together to think about what the future of healthcare can look like.
“They (the proposals) were amazing. They are very coincident with the work that we are doing at UCHealth, all four of the topical areas,” he said. “For C.U.T.E. … they thought about using robotics instead of humans and allowing humans to work in the adjudication and the human-to-human interaction that they are needed for. So they took a task that doesn’t necessarily require a human and built a robot for it.”
Part of the mission of UCHealth is to bring young people into healthcare as well as get them to understand that this industry goes way beyond what the eyes see, he said.
“Healthcare cannot be the last bastion of industry where adding technology increases cost and complexity,” he said. “We need people like these to understand that it becomes simpler, cheaper, more efficient and higher quality with technology, and that’s exactly what they were proposing.”
Tayla Klusack, ICU room team member and a junior at Longmont High School, experienced firsthand the challenges her peers looked at through this process, she said, having recently paid a visit to the hospital herself to undergo surgery on her left ankle.
“I play sports and have had quite a few sports injuries … multiple concussions and a broken nose this year,” she said. “I have seen and experienced a lot of the challenges first hand, too.”
For her project rethinking the design of an ICU room, Klusack had the chance to visit with staff and listened to their complaints, helping expand her own perspective and understanding as a former patient.
“We wanted to know how we could make it more efficient and make it more comfortable, and make it feel homier for the patient and their families,” she said. “To see how things work behind the scene from the staff perspective instead of just the patient perspective was really cool.”
The project team will continue beyond the school year and into future years, adding a new set of students who will be exploring new solutions, according to Kennedy.
"Today's students are the leaders of tomorrow who will solve our world's most complex challenges,” stated SVVSD Superintendent Don Haddad in the news release. “Together with one of our most outstanding partners, UCHealth, we are providing rigorous learning opportunities and experiences that will empower students with a strong competitive advantage for success in today's complex, globalized economy."