Industrial designers from London-based The Agency of Design worked with medical device company Altitude Medical on developing a simple solution, the PullClean, which turns the most regular touch point in the hospital – the door handle – into a place to clean your hands.

Although hospitals are a place to be treated and to recover from operations and illnesses, they are also inadvertently a hot bed for germs. Sanitisation of hands is paramount to avoid the spreading of these germs but it often can’t be enforced. According to Jake McKnight, CEO of Altitude Medical, lack of sanitisation costs the United States $45 billion a year.

“We needed a solution that makes it easy for staff, patients and their visitors to sanitise their hands without interrupting their workflow,” explains McKnight.

To help them devise a solution, McKnight and his team turned to the industrial design and engineering team at The Agency of Design. The simple, yet very clever, solution that they devised together was to transform possibly the biggest threat to infection spread – door handles – into an opportunity.

Although hospitals are full of sanitising stations, it means that people have to stop what they are doing to clean their hands. But the aim with incorporating a sanitiser into a door handle is to have it in ‘the line of motion’ making sanitisation habitual every time the door is opened.

“The design was very much focused on making it require as little thought as possible. Seeing an existing sanitiser on a wall, deciding to use, stopping what you’re doing to divert to it, then dispensing. This all takes too much thought,” says Rich Gilbert, co-founder of The Agency of Design.

“Taking the ideas of cognitive loading, we wanted to make the interaction as simple as possible, trying to make it almost subconscious. You’re already holding it so you might as well use the other hand to dispense sanitiser,” Gilbert says.

From the outset of the project the design team knew part of the challenge of improving hand sanitisation rates would be collecting impartial data to prove the product’s effectiveness. So, simple monitoring software and sensors were built into the handle to monitor the rate of hand sanitisation.

These electronics were prototyped and developed concurrently with the handle hardware to ensure the sensing was accurate and the collection method simple and robust. A web portal was also developed to allow infection control staff to quickly and easily review this data.

Pre-production prototypes of the handle were installed in a US hospital for clinical trials. During the trial it was noted that the rates of hand sanitising rose from 22% to 77%.

The handle is now in production and due to ship this year.


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