20 March 2015 15:21

A Lancaster University designer has helped create the software for a tablet device which supports medics treating patients with Ebola. 

The device can be washed in chlorine solution, and can be used wearing gloves and in adverse weather conditions and high humidity.

It comes after Médecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), a charity which delivers emergency medical aid, called for an Ebola-proof tablet to help teams record patient information.

The challenge for health workers was that nothing could leave the high-risk zone, including paper. This meant they had to dictate medical notes at a distance, shouting over the fence, or had to remember patient details until the end of their shift.

Corinne Pritchard, a Design Visualizer at ImaginationLancaster, was one of three designers in Daniel Cunningham’s Hack4Good team of volunteers, and helped design the software for the device.

Other volunteers took care of the coding and hardware needs in the early stages, mostly working for free. As the project developed it was taken on by Google’s Crisis Response Team, who developed the Ebola-proof tablets and took the project to completion.

Corinne Pritchard said: “This was an amazing opportunity to help the medics currently fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone and beyond.

“The brief was very challenging – the medics are dressed head to toe in plastic, their goggles fog up in the heat and they’re wearing two pairs of gloves, so we had to design very accessible software. I hope this project shows that being a designer is about more than adding bells and whistles – it can have very real benefits.”

The tablet has a waterproof casing which can be washed in 0.5% chlorine solution, has rounded edges so as to not pierce protective clothing, and is charged wirelessly.

Having been tested at MSF treatment centres in Sierra Leone, the charity hopes the technology will be adapted for similar emergency situations, such as outbreaks of cholera.