The Prince Charles Hospital launches 'ICU of the Future'


Friday, 16 December, 2022

The Prince Charles Hospital launches 'ICU of the Future'

Intensive Care Units can be daunting places for patients and their families, with up to 75% of ICU patients globally experiencing anxiety, depression, or other physical, cognitive, or psychological problems. To improve care outcomes, a more patient-centric and recovery-focused ICU of the Future has been launched at the Prince Charles Hospital.

The collaborative project has seen Metro North Health, the CCRG, medical research charity The Common Good, and Queensland Health — with financial support from Queensland Technology Future Fund and Queensland Motor Vehicle Accident Insurance Commission — join forces to combat design and environmental challenges that studies found may impact patient recovery.

The team involved in the ICU of the Future project, including CCRG Founder and Director Professor John Fraser, Project Manager Oystein Tronstad and psychiatrist Associate Professor Dylan Flaws, investigated how things such as noise pollution from constant alarms day and night, the lack of natural light, and social isolation contributed to a patient’s ICU experience and the effect on their outcomes and long-term recovery.

“The ICUs we have currently were designed by clinicians, for clinicians. The ‘ICU of the Future’ challenges this by redesigning the intensive care environment to be more patient-focused, including and prioritising their needs to optimise healing and recovery while ensuring clinical efficiencies,” Fraser said.

“If you experience delirium while in hospital, your mortality is three times higher in the subsequent six months. Your risk of PTSD can be as high as that seen among war veterans, and your ability to return to work and hold down a job or a long-term relationship can be dramatically diminished.”

“Working hand in hand with clinicians, former patients and their families, and industry partners, the ‘ICU of the Future’ aims to reduce the incidence of ICU Delirium and improve the experience and long-term outcomes of critically ill patients, optimising the quality of life patients can expect to enjoy after leaving the hospital,” Tronstad said.

It’s not just patients who are affected by the existing design of ICUs. Many environmental factors, including lack of natural light and excessive noise levels, also contribute to the ICU being a challenging work environment for staff.

As part of their investigations, CCRG built a working prototype to road-test design changes and adapt final innovations with stakeholder recommendations. Now they are pleased to have two ICU bed spaces completed, which will be accepting the first patients as early as January 2023.

“For this world-first project, we are introducing technologies that can reduce the amount of noise experienced by the patient, lighting that can mimic natural light and help maintain the body’s natural circadian rhythm, and improve how patients connect with their family members and the outside world. When the design changes are implemented into a working intensive care unit, we envisage that we will see significant improvements in patient outcomes,” Tronstad said.

The ‘ICU of the Future’ project was born out of a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach, and more than five years of research. Those involved have a steadfast commitment to understanding the many psychological difficulties patients may experience during and after an ICU stay.

The Common Good CEO Michael Hornby OAM said recent global events put ICUs across the world under immense strain, and with more people than ever undergoing the often-difficult experience of being treated in one, CCRG’s ‘ICU of the Future’ project is of paramount importance.

“Medical research funding is vital in allowing world-first breakthroughs like the ICU of the Future to happen,” Hornby said. 

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