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Journal of Healthcare Engineering
Volume 3 (2012), Issue 3, Pages 431-442
Research Article

Developing Unique Engineering Solutions to Improve Patient Safety

Bradley V. Watts,1,2,3 Douglas Van Citters,4 Brian Shiner,2,3 and Peter D. Mills1,3

1VA National Center for Patient Safety, White River Junction, VT, USA
2Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH, USA
3New England Veterans Engineering Resource Center, White River Junction, VT, USA
4Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA

Copyright © 2012 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Many efforts to improve healthcare safety have focused on redesigning processes of care or retraining clinicians. Far less attention has been focused on the use of new technologies to improve safety. We present the results of a unique collaboration between the VA National Center for Patient Safety (NCPS) and the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. Each year, the NCPS identifies safety problems across the VA that could be addressed with newly-engineered devices. Teams of Thayer students and faculty participating in a senior design course evaluate and engineer a solution for one of the problems. Exemplar projects have targeted surgical sponge retention, nosocomial infections, surgical site localization, and remote monitoring of hospitalized patients undergoing diagnostic testing and procedures. The program has served as an avenue for engineering students and health care workers to solve problems together. The success of this academic-clinical partnership could be replicated in other settings.