BA Design Product 160522 Hospital Pods full 08

A group of Otago Polytechnic design students have been busy solving a problem of the future – ensuring there are places for hospital staff to have sensitive phone calls and conversations in the New Dunedin Hospital. 

The New Dunedin Hospital design will likely provide open-plan workspaces, and may include quiet booths, casual seating areas, meeting rooms and “beverage bays” (mini kitchenettes), enabling staff to work in more collaborative ways.  

But open-plan working comes with challenges – including finding somewhere to have a private conversation when meeting rooms are booked.

To help solve this issue, the Otago Polytechnic learners have designed “busy pods” – freestanding, private, noise-reducing pods that staff can use for activities such as telehealth calls with patients.

Working in teams, the students have undertaken research, created mock-ups, and presented prototypes to the New Dunedin Hospital project team.

Examples of their designs have been installed in the staff café at the current Dunedin Hospital.

Emily Craven, SDHB Anaesthetic Registrar, was one of the first SDHB staff to trial the prototype privacy “pods”.

“You can discuss patient welfare issues or, in fact, anything sensitive with the confidence that your conversation will remain private. I could see such spaces being really popular. I recall a university at which I worked having a similar setup and they worked really well. People used the spaces a lot,” Emily says.

Otago Polytechnic Head of Product Design Machiko Niimi says the project has provided a great opportunity for third-year students to work on a real-life problem for real clients.

“The DHB staff were supportive of the human-centred design approach used in our curriculum,” Machiko says.

“For example, students were invited to an interview session with doctors and administration staff to hear their first-hand experiences and everyday realities to understand their needs. Designing with real users in mind is key to designing a meaningful outcome.”

Bridget Dickson, Programme Director for the New Dunedin Hospital, says the students have come up with inspiring designs.

“Some of the designs are modular and can be joined together to create bigger spaces, some – such as the design with the grass elements – have been inspired by the natural environment, and some can be configured for multiple uses,” Bridget says. ​​​​​​​

“It’s heartening to see such skilful, sustainability-focused and imaginative work from the designers of the future.” 

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