Search graduate:

Merike Liiva

  • Faculty of Design
  • Industrial and Digital Product Design
  • BA
  • Supporting family members of ICU patients in North Estonia Medical Centre
  • Tutor: Maarja Mõtus

Unexpected admission of a patient to an intensive care unit can be a very frightening and difficult situation for loved ones, as they have found themselves in a new and unfamiliar intensive care environment.

The aim of the bachelor’s thesis is to offer a solution that allows relatives to receive the support and help they need. In my dissertation I study the needs of the families of intensive care patients of the North Estonian Medical Centre, their journey in the hospital and how to provide them with the support they need.

When choosing the methods for the dissertation, I proceeded with a 4-stage design process and a human-centered design approach in order to find a solution to support patients’ loved ones in a mentally difficult situation where they suddenly see their loved ones in intensive care.

The literature review and interviews revealed that loved ones have five main needs: information, reassurance, support, the need to be near the patient and a suitable environment. Due to the limited scale of the work, I chose the sharing of information as the focus of my work, because it is the most important need of the relatives of ICU patients. The lack of information was evident throughout the whole journey in the ICU, which leads to stress and confusion, preventing relatives from supporting patients and therefore hindering the healing and recovery process of the patient.

As a solution, I developed a digital communication plan for hospital staff and information form for the relatives, with which relatives can receive support throughout the whole journey in the ICU.

The digital communication plan is a supporting tool for the staff in a constantly changing ICU environment. It can help the staff to keep track of patients’ relatives and the information they have received. This is important due to the work structure of the ICU, where there are several nurses taking care of the same patient, leading to change in information. With a structured approach, the ICU staff can provide information and security, by being up to date with the patient and its family. The goal of the communication plan is to strengthen the families’ ability to cope with the situation and to develop co-operation between the staff and relatives through active communication, from the admission of the patient to its departure from the hospital. This solution helps ICU workers to share consistent information and provide support to relatives throughout the patients’ journey in the ICU. 

The goal of the digital information form is to facilitate the communication between the staff and the relatives, by providing regular updates about the needs of the relatives. The form can create a sense of security, that no stranger’s are allowed to see the patient and the staff has an overview of the visitor list. Secondly, the form can help introverted people to ask discreetly for assistance and information. In addition, the relative can use the form to ask for privacy from the staff. 

I believe that North Estonia Medical Centre provides excellent care to its patients and the development of a support system could provide an equally excellent service to relatives of patients.

The thesis highlighted several points that require attention.

The purpose of my thesis is not to discredit our health care system, but to show that it is a place where designers could provide a helping hand to the health care system by developing solutions which allow the hospital workers to continue with the excellent work they are doing. 

It is unfortunately in Estonian. I am really sorry!