Ever come across a product that was so beautifully designed that you just had to comment on it? Whether in terms of appearance, functionality, or both, it showed the work of an ingenious product designer.

In this special section, HEALTHCARE DESIGN acknowledges and identifies just some of these innovative product designers. The editorial staff reviewed dozens of nominations, submitted by readers, and selected our 2010 Top Ten-those that we felt displayed a flair for the creative and stylish, but with usefulness and ingenuity intact.

Also included in the supplement is our annual Product Showcase highlighting even more innovative products and services.

Product Name: DIRTT Walls

Manufacturer: DIRTT

Designer's Name: Geoff Gosling

Nomination by Tracey McGee, Healthcare Project Manager, McMillan Pazdan Smith: The design of this product has re-envisioned the interior wall as sustainable, flexible, functional, and beautiful. The aesthetics of the “off the shelf” pieces allow architects to focus on the overall design without worrying about fabrication or installation issues. The modularity of the product makes retrofitting interiors very easy and seamless. The ability to integrate technology into the walls makes this a smart, long-life product for healthcare environments.

What inspired you to design this product?

Geoff Gosling: Historically, the built environment has been one of excessive material use, a major contributor to our landfills, and incapable of any level of adaptation or evolution. It was clear to us there was a great need to create an environmental solution that had sustainability as its core behaviour. We were led by the belief that we could create a solution that could respond to change whether it was technological, aesthetic, or some other unexpected demand.

Kristin Moore (responsible for marketing and understanding clients needs in the Healthcare sector): The flexibility of DIRTT wall systems has been amply demonstrated in the healthcare sector, where it contributes to improving patient and employee outcomes without environmentally-damaging construction.

What were the main challenges you encountered in designing this product, and how did you resolve them?

Geoff Gosling: The challenge was to understand what would be asked of our products over time. The first instinct was to create a solution that addressed all of these potential needs up front but it became clear that we were headed down the road of being “student of many, master of none.” The breakthrough was accepting that neither we nor our clients can ever know what the future holds. By understanding that, we strove toward a solution that did not care about its future application. The environment of our walls essentially “stands with its knees bent” ready to respond to change not only today but in the future.

DIRTT Environmental Solutions

Contact: Andrée Iffrig

Ph.: 403.450.7617

Fax: 403.723.6644

E-mail: aiffrig@dirtt.net

Web: http://www.dirtt.net

Product Name: Dyson Airblade hand dryer

Manufacturer: Dyson

Designer's Name: James Dyson

Nomination: James Dyson pulls things apart-meddling, breaking, and putting them together because he's interested in how things work and making them better. Exemplifying true perseverance, James learns from one failure to another until it is right-constantly questioning, improving, and moving forward. After 15 years of failures, James engineered the world's first vacuum cleaner with constant suction. In 2006, James introduced the Dyson Airblade hand dryer. Using Dyson's digital motor, the hand dryer scrapes water from hands with a 400 mph sheet of air. James continues to challenge the norm, always asking “why,” and in return developing revolutionary technology.

What inspired you to design this product?

Dyson engineers didn't set out to develop a hand dryer. But while developing air knives for a different project, they found that the force of air created by the Dyson digital motor (DDM) would scrape water from our hands, leaving them completely dry.

The Dyson Airblade hand dryer does what it was designed to do-dry your hands. Warm-air hand dryers rely on evaporation and hot air to dry hands, which doesn't work and can actually dirty newly washed hands. The Dyson Airblade utilizes the DDM to produce a 400-mph stream of clean air, blown through a gap no thicker than an eyelash. This sheet of air acts like an invisible windshield wiper, wiping moisture from hands leaving them completely dry in 12 seconds.

What were the main challenges you encountered in designing this product, and how did you resolve them?

Dyson engineers knew they needed to create a hand dryer that not only dried hands quickly, but did so hygienically. Traditional hand dryers simply suck up dirty restroom air, heat it, and blow it back on to hands, leaving them damp and more prone to spread bacteria.

The product uses a HEPA filter to remove more than 99.9% of the bacteria from the air used to dry hands. Because of this, it is the only hand dryer certified hygienic by the National Sanitation Foundation. It has also gained the HACCP International accreditation, certifying the machine is safe to use in food preparation facilities.


Contact: Valerie Silvis

Ph.: 312.469.5950

Fax: 312.469.5951

E-mail: valerie.silvis@dyson.com

Web: http://www.dysonairblade.com

Product Name: Elements Headwall System

Manufacturer: Hill-Rom

Designers' Names: Dennis Gallant, David Newkirk, Brian Hoffman, Steve Westerfeld

Nomination: This headwall product takes flexiblity to a new level, offering removeable, replaceable finishes, moveable medical gases, and the ability to add components like casework and power outlets at any time after construction is complete. There is nothing else like this on the market. Bravo!

What inspired you to design this product?

We wanted to create a headwall that would strike the right balance between clinical efficacy and hospitality design. Traditional headwalls often sacrifice aesthetics to improve workflow or compromise function in pursuit of hospitality design. We wanted a best-in-breed solution without any compromises.

What were the main challenges you encountered in designing this product, and how did you resolve them?

It was a challenge to create a completely acuity-adaptable headwall system that enabled hospitals to quickly and easily convert rooms from a lower acuity, like Med-Surg, to a higher acuity, such as an ICU. We accomplished this by developing a removable panel system, a first-of-its-kind gas manifold with flexible hoses instead of copper for gas service delivery, and a robust infrastructure to promote future “plug and play” capabilities. This created a totally scalable headwall system that is always “future ready.”


Contact: Russ Mitchell

Phone: 812.345.8458

E-mail: russ.mitchell@hill-rom.com

Web: http://www.hill-rom.com

Product Name: Guardian Laminar Airflow System

Manufacturer: Critical Environments Group, Inc.

Designer's Name: Joseph McGill

Nomination by John Douglas Thompson, AIA, architect: The Guardian Laminar Airflow System is a significant innovation in an area that is typically difficult for both designers and builders-the OR ceiling. It completely solves the coordination issues between the architectural, structural, mechanical, and lighting elements. The structural integrity is phenomenal, the architectural detailing is absolutely precise, and it produces without a doubt, the cleanest sterile field of any system available. Its face panels are absolutely smooth and highly cleanable in place, or they can be removed and steam sterilized in a cart washer. It is the first major innovation in OR ceiling design in decades.

What inspired you to design this product?

The inspiration came from a sincere desire to help reduce the number of infections acquired during surgery. We set out to improve on the manner in which laminar flow technology was being employed in the operating room. This drove many of the early design decisions. The first installations were a huge success, and our rooms had an unusually low airborne-particle count. Also important was developing a system which solved the problems that are universally common with designing and building operating room ceilings.

What were the main challenges you encountered in designing this product, and how did you resolve them?

Typically, laminar flow systems for operating rooms consist of a number of individual laminar airflow devices arranged in a tight pattern so that turbulence is minimized. This is not always an easy task given the structural support requirements and other devices such as supplemental lighting fixtures. We solved this by designing modules that fasten together to form a single integrated system that included the necessary structural and seismic elements. The result was a system that not only performed better, but eliminated the conflicts that exist when attempting to use components from several different vendors that are supplied and installed by several different contractors.

Critical Environments Group, Inc.

Contact: Joseph McGill, Director of Planning and Design

Ph.: 714.795.2000

Fax: 714.276.1399

E-mail: jmcgill@cenvgroup.com

Web: http://www.cenvgroup.com

Product Name: io Balance Beam

Manufacturer: Cooper Lighting

Designers' Names: Ann Reo and Chantal Pittman

Nomination: io's balance beam is the next generation ADA-compliant illuminated grab bar. It employs Touch Sensing Technology which activates the LED light inside the grab bar. This unique sensing technology enables automatic operation of the light inside the grab bar by sensing the contact of the patient or caregiver's hand. When the user touches or leans on the bar for physical support, the light is turned on. When the user removes their hand from the bar, the light stays on for a predetermined amount of time and then turns itself off.

What inspired you to design this product?

We designed and launched an award-winning, LED-based illuminated handrail in our product line five years ago. It is ADA- and ANSI-compliant and uses energy-efficient, long-lasting LEDs as the light source. Healthcare applications specifically inspired us to add touch sensing to operate the light inside a modular grab bar version. When a patient touches the bar for physical support, the light automatically turns on for pathway illumination and turns off after a preset time. Amber lights at each end of the grab bar additionally serve as a visual queue at night, while not interrupting circadian rhythms.

What were the main challenges you encountered in designing this product, and how did you resolve them?

Designing the circuitry and firmware for touch sensitivity was a big challenge. Then combining that circuit board, the LED-light fixture, and the LED night lights inside the grab bar was the biggest challenge: We had to maintain less than 1.6″ outside diameter to meet ADA requirements while withstanding an 800-pound load in any direction for California's OSPHD compliance; we had a design aesthetic that called for a clean, flangeless connection to the wall. These combined criteria required substantial bracing within the wall and at the corners of the grab bar itself while leaving little space for the electronics.

Cooper Lighting

Ph.: 847.777.3900

Fax: 847.777.3901

E-mail: ioinfo@cooperindustries.com

Web: http://www.iolighting.com

Product Name: The Legacy Expanding “Barinomics” Bariatric Recliner

Manufacturer: Legacy Furniture Group, Inc.

Designer's Name: Todd Norris, President, Legacy Furniture Group

Nomination: Todd Norris, winner of Best of NeoCon in 2006 for Innovation, has now addressed two critical needs in healthcare today with his latest design-accommodating bariatric patients and their families, and controlling healthcare facility costs. At the flip of a lever, Legacy's Expanding Bariatric Recliner adjusts from a standard inside width of 22″ to a bariatric width of 28″. This delivers two seating options in one recliner, for the price of one, enabling hospitals to accommodate all types of patients and to fit a bariatric unit in the smaller rooms and narrower doorways of older facilities at half the cost of separate recliners.

What inspired you to design this product?

We needed to provide a “win-win” situation for both bariatric patients and healthcare facilities. Also we needed to control costs by keeping inventory components down, so we created a recliner that could be both a standard or a bariatric recliner. We call it “Barinomics”-two for the price of one. Our patent-pending mechanism expands the inside width of the recliner up to six inches at the flip of a lever, from standard to bariatric width. The proprietary Lateral Transfer Arm enables easy transfer from wheelchairs, left or right. The standard width position also enables easy entry through narrow doors or crowded hallways in older facilities. The weight-activated mechanism is also ideal for geriatric patients; no stiff springs or searching for levers.

What were the main challenges you encountered in designing this product, and how did you resolve them?

The main challenge was achieving equilateral expansion, getting both sides of the recliner to expand at the same time smoothly and without much effort. Equally challenging was engineering an expanding recliner to hold bariatric weight. We had to create, develop, test, and manufacture a proprietary mechanism because there were no stock components on the market. Adding heat and massage plus the Lateral Transfer Arm made the design complete, compatible with any patient and easy to use for the medical staff.

Legacy Furniture Group, Inc.

Contact: Todd Norris, President, Legacy Furniture Group

Ph.: 828.328.5600

Fax: 828.328.5700

E-mail: todd@legacyfurniture.us

Web: http://www.legacyfurniture.us

Product Name: On the Right Track Cubicle Curtain System

Manufacturer: On the Right Track Systems, Inc.

Designer's Name: On The Right Track design team

Nomination: There are no hooks and chains to tangle or break. All the curtain panels are modular so they can be separated to offer various levels of privacy. The silent glide rails simply do their job. An entire paneled, one-bed set-up can be changed out in less than 20 seconds (compared to 15-20 minutes in a traditional setup) and, perhaps more importantly, you won't need a ladder to install the product. It can be done while standing on the floor!

What inspired you to design this product?

In the early 1990s, we developed the very successful Hookless® Shower Curtain. After demonstrating the curtain to a local healthcare facility, they informed us that we should focus on the “cubicle curtain crisis.” “What crisis?” we asked. Facility employees then inundated us with all the negative attributes associated with traditional cubicle curtains. Nurses complained of curtains that were always stuck and patients were irritated by the noise; difficulty exchanging the curtains (up to 30 minutes per bed) and safety concerns of using a ladder were issues generated by Operations and Environmental Services. We listened. The result is a cubicle curtain system unrivaled in the current market. Our system operates with no hooks, chains, or carriers and enables the curtains to be pulled silently without getting stuck. The split-ring design allows curtain exchanges to take place in less than a minute while standing firmly on the ground, eliminating ladder safety concerns.

What were the main challenges you encountered in designing this product, and how did you resolve them?

The main challenge was designing a system that addressed all the problems, not just some of them. We completely overhauled the hook-and-chain system and developed the unique rings-and-rail design that work in tandem to provide both a silent “no stick” rail solution in conjunction with the ability to be removed easily. The “Grabber,” which is used to remove the curtains while standing on the ground, has gone through multiple revisions in the past two years; we sought to eliminate ladders as they result in time delays and safety concerns.

On the Right Track Systems, Inc.

Contact: Keil Merrick

Ph.: 212.625.6636

Fax: 212.625.6631

E-mail: keil@ontherighttrack.com

Web: http://www.ontherighttrack.com

Product Name: SentinelStop

Manufacturer: SentinelStop, Inc.

Designer's Name: Stephen Young

Nomination: Steve Young, inventor of SentinelStop, after years of experience designing mental health units for large healthcare systems and state facilities, recognized the need to move beyond traditional thinking related to the reduction and elimination of ligature-induced sentinel events by ligature on inpatient units. The SentinelStop door sensor system in the only product of its kind that alarms staff at the slightest indication of weight on a door frame, regardless of where weight is applied: hinge, latch, or the door itself, and is completely invisible to patients.

What inspired you to design this product?

As an architect, my practice has a special emphasis on inpatient mental and behavioral health facility design. A critical consideration in such facilities is the physical safety of the client. While most room elements can be selected to limit opportunities for self-injury, options for door security have been limited and do not provide protection at all portions of a door and hardware. The development of a comprehensive door monitoring system that could reduce unnecessary client death or injury and limit costly claims settlements was an exciting opportunity.

What were the main challenges you encountered in designing this product, and how did you resolve them?

The development of a reliable operating and sensor mechanism was a difficult challenge. To meet the goals of sensitivity, reliability, flexibility for both new and retrofit applications, and ease of staff operation, we spent almost two years working with our consulting engineers developing and improving the mechanical, electronic, and programming systems. The forces on door hinges are surprisingly complex, but we were able to resolve these issues through multiple sensor points and data management programming. The resulting system has variable sensitivity that allows for the normal use of the doors while notifying staff immediately if excessive weight is placed on any part of the door assembly.

SentinelStop, Inc.

Contact: Stephen Young, Susan Tabor, or Lawrence Wilz

PH.: 866.996.5583

Fax: 612.337.5312

E-mail: syoung@sentinelstop.com, stabor@sentinelstop.com, lwilz@sentinelstop.com

Web: http://www.sentinelstop.com

Product Name: VanishPoint® Syringe

Manufacturer: Retractable Technologies, Inc.

Designer's Name: Thomas J. Shaw

Nomination: When engineer Thomas J. Shaw saw a television news segment about a doctor who had contracted HIV from an accidental needlestick injury, he felt challenged to develop an ideal syringe, one that would prevent both needlestick injury and syringe reuse, two ways that bloodborne diseases are transmitted from person to person.

The syringe that Shaw developed-the VanishPoint®-utilizes a patented frictionally held mechanism that permits automated retraction of the needle into the barrel of the syringe, directly from the patient, after the medication is injected.

What inspired you to design this product?

In the late 1980s, I owned a small Texas company called Checkmate Engineering. We provided civil and structural engineering services. Late one night, I was watching a television program. A physician in California was talking about the large number of needlestick accidents, the risk to healthcare workers for contracting HIV or hepatitis, and the failure of engineers to solve this problem. She said she didn't think it was right. As an engineer, I felt challenged. The next morning I asked my pharmacist for some syringes so I could see what the problem might be. That's how it all began.

What were the main challenges you encountered in designing this product, and how did you resolve them?

Nine pounds is about the optimum force that most nurses can comfortably exert with a thumb. I had three forces that I wrestled with for years: the locking force, the release force at the front of the plunger, and the release force of the friction ring. We had a test machine that that would show the “humps” for each of these forces, and I was always trying to keep them so that they didn't add up to nine pounds. Suddenly one day I realized that if I extend the collar all the way back, one third of everything that had kept me awake at night was suddenly gone.

Retractable Technologies, Inc.

Contact: Jack Duncan

Ph.: 972.294.1010, x 3390

Fax: 972.294.4400

E-mail: rtipr@vanishpoint.com

Web: http://www.vanishpoint.com

Product Name: WAVE Pro Elite

Manufacturer: WAVE Manufacturing Inc.

Designer's Name: WAVE design team

Nomination by Felix Umana, physiotherapist, Umana Rehabilitation Services: This product has allowed me to provide effective treatment for a patient populations that would normally be unable to participate in an active rehabilitation program. The results have been excellent and the manufacturer provides dynamic, hands-on training for staff to maximize patient outcomes.

Nomination by Michael Forint, Physiomed Health: The curved design embodies the nature of a wave and the inherent functional vibrations that deliver the health benefits. Very inviting!

What inspired you to invent this product?

The WAVE's inventor is Sohan Koonar, a physiotherapist who was looking for a vibration exercise machine that he could safely treat his patients with. In the 1990s, the only available vibration exercise machines were uncalibrated. Koonar decided to create his own machine that would calibrate to a patient's weight with the WAVE's patented air-wave technology, so that he would be able to set the dosimetry of the machine and provide pure vertical vibration. The WAVE Pro Elite was designed and developed by WAVE's team of engineers and medical and exercise specialists.

What were the main challenges you encountered in designing this product, and how did you resolve them?

Our main challenge was to design and develop smaller, more economical, and production-friendly machines to reduce the overall size, weight, and packaging dimensions of our products without compromising quality so that they will be more compact and easier to assemble. Our machines were designed in a particular way to work with the vibrations the motor creates. WAVE did not want to simply cut costs that would result in a poor-quality unit, but would rather be the industry leader with superior performance and quality. All of the necessary components of the whole-body vibration exercise machines were redesigned into a smaller, more stylish unit, without altering the vibration performance. The smaller machines maintain their structural integrity and can support up to 1,500 lbs. like the previous machines.


Contact: Sara Koonar (Marketing Director) or Natalie Henderson (Account Manager)

Ph.: 800.420.7546

E-mail: sales@wavexercise.com

Web: http://www.wavexercise.com

Healthcare Design 2010 May;10(5):31-42