While many have focused on how to mitigate the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) by planning measures to flatten the curve, reduce the spread of infection, and manage our scarce resources, a research team Vantage recently joined has taken a much more aggressive and proactive approach. The result has the opportunity to be a game-changer with regard to future pandemics. Project Héroe is a modular, state of the art healthcare facility that can be quickly deployed at the site of a potential outbreak before it has a chance to spread. The central thesis behind Project Héroe is that if we can stop a contagious virus before it gets going, then there will be less need to put in place contagion management and limitation measures.
Designed around modular containers that can be quickly deployed in environments ranging from inner cities to the rural countryside, the Project Héroe facility includes patient rooms and treatment spaces, staff housing, intake and triage, and support. As a self-contained facility equally at home in downtown San Francisco and rural South Dakota, staffed by skilled epidemiologists, clinicians, and care-team members, Project Héroe can quickly intake, triage, and treat an infected population, reducing the spread of contagion and the subsequent significant loss of life and economic downturn of previous pandemics.
Led by the USC School of Architecture, the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and internationally-recognized architecture firm HLW, the Project Héroe team includes advisors from all aspects of medicine and the built environment. The Project Héroe report, published on the team’s website at the end of July 2020, has been widely featured in the architectural and popular press, but offers only a first step towards implementation. The team is currently working with industry leaders to turn this hypothetical-to-date research project into a functioning prototype that can act as the template for rapid-response pandemic management in the future.
Vantage is the team’s integrated technology workflow advisor providing technology-focused consultation, ideas, and feedback to the project. We provided visioning and future thinking surrounding clinical, information and low voltage technologies that could be deployed to support the mission. We participated in design workshops with the students working on the project to encourage ‘out of the box’ thinking and provide immediate feedback on ideas. We authored several of the technology sections of the report and provided additional backup and supporting information to the team.
Technology will play a key role at the Project Heroe facility. Access to cloud-based electronic medical record and research systems will be provided throughout the facility. A local command center will coordinate the activities of the facility and will be linked to an enterprise command center that will coordinate the activities of the Project Heroe team on a global scale.
A real time location system will automatically track medical equipment, staff, and patients allowing staff to quickly locate equipment and each other regardless of how the facility is configured to suit the local environment. Contact tracing capabilities will be built into the system to identify potential infections, while RFID-based materials management systems will keep track of supplies and consumables and automatically order and re-stock when supplies reach pre-determined levels.
The primary method of connecting to clinical and information systems at the facility will be a wireless mesh network that self-configures as the facility is constructed. This information network will extend beyond the physical walls of the facility to extend its ‘umbrella of care’ into the local community it is there to serve. This healing umbrella will leverage apps, wearable devices and other personal technologies to involve and inform the community and measure the impact of the contagion.
Links to the outside world will be required in order for staff to access cloud-based electronic medical records, consult with peers and researchers located off-site, and simply to stay connected to home. Provisions for hard-wired landlines, cellular connections and satellite communications will all be provided to ensure connectivity can be provided regardless of whether the facility is located in a bustling downtown or a remote district.
In addition, Internet of Things (IoT) technologies will monitor the integrity of the facility, including measuring the performance of energy, cooling, filtration, and other building systems; tracking scheduled maintenance and replacement of consumables to keep systems functioning at optimum levels regardless of external climate and location; and using predictive AI-based algorithms to anticipate and mitigate system breakdowns and failures.
The potential impact of the Project Heroe facility cannot be understated. As the world continues to reel under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Project Heroe’s mission to identify, contain, and manage future pandemics becomes even more important, minimizing economic disruption and, more importantly, saving lives. Vantage is proud to be an advisor and contributor to the initiative and is ready to continue our involvement as the project moves from a theoretical study into prototyping.