Technology preventing hospital falls explained through animation

By Jenna Lioulios

UniSA Bachelor of Design students Merryn Brenton and Helen Sau designed this animation to explain new technology which alerts hospital staff when older patients are undertaking movements that put them at risk of falling.

A group of UniSA design students has translated complex medical research into simple animations to help the work of researchers reach a broader audience.

Bachelor of Design (Communication Design) students have spent a semester developing three animations based on research by the Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Researchers from the Basil Hetzel Institute (BHI) pitched their projects to UniSA design students earlier this year. Students were then given a detailed brief by the researchers involved so that students could develop detailed storyboards to outline their planned animations.

Each video was produced by a second and a third-year student working together as a team.

One video looks at new technology being trialled at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which alerts hospital staff when older patients are undertaking movements that put them at risk of falling. The Ambient Intelligent Geriatric Management system (AmbIGeM) aims to prevent falls in older people within hospitals.

UniSA Bachelor of Design students Merryn Brenton and Helen Sau recently presented the final product to their client – the researchers involved.

“The process was filled with learning so many new skills not only in a new software but in working on team projects and designing for a real client, rather than simply answering a hypothetical brief,” Merryn says.

“Presenting to the client was very rewarding after the weeks of working on their video – it was nerve racking too, ‘what if they don’t like it?’ but they loved it, which was awesome.”

Helen says it was her first time designing for clients.

“The process seemed very nerve-racking at first, but it gave me the motivation to do the best I could,” she says.

“Presenting to the client was a new experience that was enjoyable yet challenging all in one.

“Being able to see the client’s reaction and receiving feedback to the finished product is the most satisfying feeling.”

The collaboration was beneficial for everyone involved – students gained valuable experience and researchers gained animations that help communicate the problem they are seeking to solve and their related research findings.

As medical researchers are constantly presenting their findings to peers at conferences and seminars and to the public, the animations will help to engage more audiences.

BHI Facility Manager Kathryn Hudson says the students were very professional and the institute and researchers look forward to building upon the success of the project by working with UniSA students again in 2020.

“I thought the students did an amazing job to crystallise and clearly explain complex concepts about subject matter they had no background knowledge or experience of,” Hudson says.

“The ease with which this collaboration was set up and delivered is a credit to UniSA, to program director Luci Giannattilio, lecturer Martina Budimir, their colleagues and to the students.

“It is also a great example of how UniSA is using innovation by teaching outside the traditional classroom approach and taking worthy opportunities to expose their students to lots of great learning experiences.”

Adelaide Medical School AmbIGeM Trial Coordinator Dr Joanne Dollard says she really appreciated the students’ creativity visually demonstrated in the animation, which will help showcase the AmbIGeM clinical trial. The animation will be posted online to promote the trial and pique the interest of other researchers. 

The other animations developed as part of the UniSA-BHI project include one to explain the structure and function of AquaPorin-1, a protein found in humans which acts as a rapid water channel, which could be blocked to prevent cancer cell movement.

A third animation looks at using bacteriophages – a virus that infects and replicates within bacteria – combined with antibiotics to defeat infections such as golden staph, which use a layer of biofilm (one or more types of microorganisms that can grow on different surfaces) as part of their defence mechanisms.