Soldiers in the field with severe limb injuries may be hours or days away from the nearest field hospital or military base. Standard tourniquet treatments can stop blood loss and keep soldiers alive, but do not prevent infection or preserve tissue. The U.S. Office of Naval Research asked Battelle to help develop a new wound care cover that would preserve as much tissue as possible and protect the injured limb until the soldier can be safely evacuated for treatment. The cover must be easy and intuitive for non-medical personnel to apply in a combat environment, and also address down-stream trauma caregiver needs.
Before starting concept generation, Battelle's Human Centric Design (HCD) team conducted contextual research, interviewing several combat medics and trauma teams. It was important to build an understanding of the care timeline and define user expectations. Through a series of formal focus groups and extended one-on-one interviews, researchers were able to uncover the needs, priorities and constraints of the different user groups. For combat medics, the solution needed to be compact and lightweight so it would be easy to carry in the field, fast and easy to put on by even non-medical personnel, and versatile enough to apply to a variety of wound types. Above all, it needed to quickly stop bleeding. Trauma surgeons who would see the soldier hours or days later in a clinic or hospital environment had a different set of priorities. They needed the solution to control infection and preserve as much healthy tissue as possible so they would have better treatment options for the injured limb. It also needed to be fast and easy for the trauma team to remove in the hospital. Battelle’s task was to develop a solution that met the needs of both user groups: to keep soldiers alive in the field and maximize the chances that injured limbs can be saved. In order to be accepted by users, it needed to fit within existing standards of care and be easy to deploy in stressful battleground environments.
Battelle’s in-depth research process identified user needs, defined the use case, and defined preliminary requirements that informed the development of conceptual prototypes for the Acute Care Cover for Severely Injured Limbs (ACCSIL). ACCSIL consists of a thin, conformable, tear-resistant covering for the injured limb and a bioactive coating that delivers therapies for infection control and oxygenation to preserve healthy tissue. The conformable cover seals the limb with the bioactive coating to provide protection until the soldier can be moved to a military hospital. Battelle is now working on additional formative and contextual research to model variations of the design utilizing different application methods with end users. This research will inform the final design of ACCSIL.