The design of the limited space in a helicopter cabin should be efficient and give easy access to monitoring and other medical devices. Thomas Weig and Stephan Prueckner are two senior physicians at the department of anesthesiology at Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich and both work as air medical physicians at DRF Luftrettung in Filderstadt, Germany. Together with a graduate from the department of industrial design at Weissensee Kunsthochschule in Berlin they analyzed the work processes and workflow in a helicopter cabin while airborne, and published their results earlier this month in Air Medical Journal.
Their analysis was based on a video registration with 4 cameras during missions, structured interviews of the crew after completed missions, and analysis of the video documentation with captured stills. For this project they used an Eurocopter EC 145, a medium-sized, twin-engine helicopter. This is a regular machine mainly used for interhospital transfer or emergency medical service. The helicopter interior was developed by Aerolite AG, Ennetbürgen, Switzerland.
One of the bottlenecks they identified seems to be onloading and offloading patients while connected with monitors and intravenous infusion lines. Other earlier studies also suggested many planned or accidental disconnections during on- and offloading of patients.
With regard to these results, the new design concept focused on 2 major points: convenient and intuitive use of the monitoring unit and maximum safety and comfort during on- and offloading of the patient. A true-to-scale mockup was built and installed in a cleared out EC 145 to check for practicability.
The final concept works like a drawer: medical devices are mounted on a guide rail and are connected on a fixed distance with the transport stretcher. They role with the patient when they enter the helicopter. Patient monitoring devices use wireless connections and are fully detachable. This final design concept unites improved patient and team safety and convenience.
Article in Air Medical Journal: Helicopter Cabin Design for Emergency Medical Services and Interhospital Transfer