Design meets medicine – ICU Ventilator Elisa 800 VIT

Why does a well established manufacturer of life-sustaining medical systems cooperate with a creative workshop? The first part of the answer was given last week in the form of the coveted 2015 IF Design Award for the ICU ventilator Elisa 800 VIT at the BMW Welt in Munich:

IF design award 2015, M.Wild (WILDDESISN), C.Hartmann (Salvia Medical), O.Koszel (WILDDESIGN)

On this “Night of the Designer,” our medical design team celebrated another proud success. However, our innovative partner and customer Salvia Medical clearly had more fundamental reasons to call us when they were awarded the coveted international design trophy.

“There are good reasons to interact with a creative and results-oriented industrial design partner. In order to enter into a tight symbiosis (especially in life support systems such as our intensive care ventilator Elisa 800 VIT), design must meet quality and functionality,” the Salvia-CEO Christian Hartmann explained at the beginning of the award ceremony. “ In order to survive the rigor of everyday clinical practice, almost all design elements have medical, functional, or hygienic requirements. Thanks to the award ceremony and the feedback from our customers, we can say, “mission accomplished”.”

These findings were gathered from 30 months of intensive exchange and focus on customer interface and innovative design development for new Elisa 800 VIT.

SALVIA Elisa 800 IF Award 2015

What Added Value Does Design Give a Premium Medical Device?

What began as a simple redesign lead to a completely new approach to usability, quality, premium appeal, and perhaps significant competitive advantage in the market. The WILD team was first asked to  simply redesign the existing device platform Elisa. We considered slight modernization by adjusting the size, shape, and appearance. But, the deeper we delved into the task and discussions with engineers, designers, quality managers, and medical professionals, the more we realized that current and future demands required a completely rethought device.

Particularly in stressful situations, operation needs to be self explanatory, and software clear and coherent. Components need to be conspicuously and appropriately placed to reduce the risk of error. Design is not only a matter of appearance, but a global and multifunctional answer to a modern intensive care workplace. From both medical advances and problems such as shortages in hospitals, innovation has sprung to encourage the development process.


But My Smartphone Can Too…

As evidenced in user research, medical technology so far is mainly equipped with mechanical buttons and sliders, control panels that do not meet the user’s quality expectations – and not only for reasons of hygiene. The user simply cannot imagine that a state-of-the-art medical device is not as “smart” or intuitive as a cell phone they currently own.

With this realization, came a fully user-centered redesign. With the ambitious goal to strike a balance between simplicity, intuitive operation, and room for functional enhancements, the Salvia engineering team (with over 55 years of corporate expertise in clinical respiratory function) and our design team began to work.


Smart Operation Does More Than Just Prevent Errors

Our design approach looked beyond the device’s technical excellence. Intensive care ventilators are involved in a variety of work processes and therefore need to be capable of being smoothly integrated into the hospital, moved from one room to another, and occupy a minimal amount of space.

The initial remedy was to add a set of wheels to the 4 decades old console housing. However, these offered no additional function. So, we conducted a usability analysis on the trolley, and ideated on how to get the device closer to the patient, which is critically important.


Future Oriented Platform vs. “Proven” Design…

Until now, three sizes of ELISA have been used, and all have a different design and peripheral requirements. With the new trolley concept, we were able to integrate the different designs onto a single platform interchangeably. This is cost effective and above all, space saving in the hospital, because the various devices can be easily replaced.

These innovations invoked enthusiastic responses from experts when the concept was first presented at the 2013 Medica world fair in Dusseldorf.

WILDDESIGN owner Markus Wild comments that the team was extremely flattered to receive the coveted IF Design Award for the Elisa 800 VIT. It’s not easy to win such an award, considering that we have competed against 5,000 other design teams from 53 countries worldwide. More importantly, we collaborated with our customer Salvia Medical and our partner Swisstom to meet the high expectations of users and to set a new industry standard.


Sometimes, User Friendliness Can Be Simple

One of the major enhancements to the new Elisa was the reduction of a mess of hoses and cables, and restoration of order to the “Workplace.” In practice, reorganizing the feeding cables and hoses connected to the patient allows for improved patient observation and unrestricted access in the event of an emergency.

Salvia medical elisa800 VIT

The reorganization of necessary alarms and provided information (much of which was unnecessarily chaotic) was also successfully implemented. The relevant alarms and measurements, which continually record the condition of the patient, can now be clearly detected on an 18.5-inch screen. However, the screen is not only a sophisticated display device, but also a control center for all vital settings. Everything is transparent and directly controllable.

The world’s first intensive care respirator with a fully integrated EIT system provides an image of the lungs in real time and the state of the patient (and where user intervention is necessary.) We call this innovation “Ventilator Integrated Tomography,” or VIT. Salvia partner Swisstom has developed the technology and has also won their own IF Design award for the design of the user interface. So, almost 2 IF awards in one go – Chapeau!


Continuous Improvement, Rather Than the Top Down Approach

The entire design process took 30 months, from kickoff to series production. What this project has done so well was not (only) the the developers’ ingenuity, but the regular inclusion of various experts and users who ultimately gave many suggestions for improvement. The new Elisa 800 VIT has not just become another technical device, but represents the next level of critical care ventilation. For project manager Oliver Koszel the Elisa 800 VIT embodies a finely balanced relationship between aesthetics, ergonomics, and technical expertise. Its parent form makes it intuitive to use and much more accessible for operating personnel, but still appears clear and professional.


Initial Spark for New Branding

Our customer Salvia Medical liked the first design drafts for the new Elisa so much that they spontaneously recognized and acknowledged the implications of good design as a whole.

Parallel to product development, the WILDDESIGN team also redesigned Salvia’s brand identity. A new logo, fresh color scheme, the new slogan “Breathing like Nature” – from the restrained OEM comes a modern brand that confidently asserts itself in the industry. Not only is a new ELISA presented, but a new Salvia Medical.

We think this is a great example of a consistent design strategy that is continuously improving, rather than being guided by a top-down master plan. Thank you, and congratulations to our customers Salvia Medical and all who contributed to this development.

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Markus writes about design- and innovation management, creativity methods, medical design and intercultural branding. More about...

Originally written by Markus Wild, 02. June 2015. Last updated 10. March 2019


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