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Diseases Devices and Patients

Biomedical engineering students are provided with many opportunities to develop a wide range of technical and design skills. Few students, however, explore in-depth the experience of patients undergoing device-related interventions and treatments. Furthermore, medical device technologies are frequently developed to address patient needs at the point those needs arise. Hence, engineers involved in device design may not be fully aware of the entire pathway the patient has experienced. Patients are all too often treated as business customers. A new course offered in spring 2016 was designed to provide students with the opportunity to explore the comprehensive patient experience including disease cause and progression, clinical diagnosis and treatments, and patient decisions and experiences.

The course was structured to have one introductory and two in-depth projects.

Overall, the projects provided students with opportunities to explore and integrate diseases, devices, and patient experiences, and to propose novel healthcare innovations. The three projects are:

1. Intro Project: Following a class visit by a cancer-surviving individual who provided an in-depth personal overview of his cancer experience, the students were tasked with exploring distinctly the disease pathway, intervention / device treatment pathway, and the patient pathway for either breast or prostate cancer. The students were not tasked with integrating these three pathways. The students revealed the knowledge they gained in various ways including; flow-chart diagrams, written summaries of disease processes, rubrics for evaluating interventions, and dialogs between a patient and a physician or a family member.

2. Project 1: For this project, the students were given the option to work individually or in small teams to conduct a deep exploration of a disease of their choosing along with the associated device interventions and patient experiences. In exploring the disease pathway, students prepared oral deliverables for which they chose the target audience and format. After investigating potential diagnostic or interventional devices, students performed skits depicting a dialog between a company technical representative and a device engineer in a clinical department. For the patient perspective on the disease process, students were asked to record fictitious, but accurate, patient video journal entries to be watched in class. The project concluded with a 10-15 minute demonstration of the integration of the disease, intervention and patient experience. Students were given broad latitude and encouraged to engage the class in creative ways. Deliverables included game shows, healthcare instruction presentations, and other creative activities.

3. Project 2: The final project was for the students to work in teams to propose healthcare innovations that could be interventions ranging from drugs, devices, procedures, policies, and regulations to educational and training modules. These innovations were required to clearly map back to the disease, device, and patient pathways. In addition to a 20-30 minute final engaging presentation, showing the proposed innovation and the integration of the three areas, teams were also required to submit a concise yet in-depth research report on the proposed innovation including the potential value of the innovation. Example innovations included a proposal for a policy to reduce hospital acquired infections, a plan for first-aid educational programs for children, and a plan for a new non-profit healthcare organization aimed at tackling health-related challenges of refugee camps.


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