ME 470 teams help physician innovators bring new hospital bedside table design to life

1/24/2023 Beth Hart and Julia Park

An innovative new bedside table was designed by Carle Illinois College of Medicine students and fabricated by ME 470 teams. The new design, simple, cheap, and easy to use, represents a leap toward the hospital room of the future.

Written by Beth Hart and Julia Park

The hospital bedside table – one of the most common pieces of hospital equipment, that holds everything from water cups to eyeglasses and lifesaving call buttons – is set to become more stable, flexible, and easier to use. An innovative new table was designed by Carle Illinois College of Medicine students and prototypes were fabricated by two MechSE Senior Capstone Design (ME 470) teams over several semesters.

new hospital bedside table prototype. Photo courtesy of Kaden Rawson.
The bedside table proposed solution. Photo courtesy of Kaden Rawson. 

CI MED students wanted to alter the design of the common bedside table – which had not changed since 1952 – to improve patient care and the workspace for nurses and other medical professionals. The innovation could be a key component of the hospital room of the future, incorporating engineering principles to ensure greater stability, easier use, and better maneuverability. The primary objectives for the undergrad engineers’ creation of the prototype were to make the table lightweight, height adjustable, ergonomic, and accessible for all patients.

“The current tables are difficult to maneuver. The legs get caught underneath the beds, the wheels trip over cords and bedside mats and are awkward to maneuver. We wanted to create a new table that would function better and create less maneuverability hassle for patients and providers,” Greg Payne, a fourth-year medical student at CI MED, said.

Payne and his partner on the project, fourth-year medical student Bailey MacInnis credit Carle Health nurses and medical staff with inspiring the innovation. “Nurses and patients have been frustrated with the current designs on the market,” Payne said.

MacInnis and Payne collaborated with doctors, nurses, and patient-experience staff at Carle Health to develop features that work better in a real-world setting. The new design has no legs to become entangled with the patient bed or with other equipment and uses hydraulics to easily adjust tabletop height. The MechSE teams explored various height-adjustment mechanisms before settling on the hydraulic lift because of its simplicity and reliability.

The Fall 2022 team focused on three subsystems for improvement from the previous ME 470 team’s prototype: the wheels, the extendable tabletop, and the height-adjustment mechanism. To reduce table length, a folding table-top design was implemented using high-capacity lid supports. The wheels were changed to larger 5” diameter phenolic swivel casters, and the table now has a rechargeable battery pack which can power both the hydraulics and any electronic devices. The interior of the table serves as a storage space and the tabletop includes a bottle holder.

While the new design – simple, cheap, and easy to use – represents a leap toward the hospital room of the future, it also includes features that improve function in older hospital rooms that weren’t originally designed for optimal maneuverability. The new table uses higher-clearance wheels that keep the table stable when rolling over cords and other small obstacles that are common in a hospital setting. The over-the-bed arm folds down flat when it’s not in use to save space, and an integrated cup holder prevents spills when the table is moved.

Payne said the design will keep all necessary objects close at hand, with stability, safety, and convenience in mind.

“Patients and providers will benefit from having a bedside table that doesn’t get caught on objects in the hospital room. It will be one less hassle that providers have to worry about when caring for their patients.”

The table prototype will undergo further improvement this spring to make it more attractive and to ensure its cost-effectiveness. “We believe there is a market for this product and with revision and proper testing, our product could be brought to market successfully,” Payne said.

The ME 470 teams included Thomas Chapman, Jacob Harris, Julian Herrera, Neil Kotadia, Justin Miner, Ishaan Murarka, and Mason Sotomayor, with faculty advisors Professors Mariana Kersh and Sam Tawfick.

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This story was published January 24, 2023.