Making proton therapy more accessible

Imagine being strapped into a large machine, completely immobilized, for an hour while it delivers high doses of radiation to treat your cancer. Imagine doing this daily for up to six months. 

Proton therapy has many advantages. It effectively targets cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy tissue and organs. But the experience isn't particularly easy on stressed patients. That's why when ProNova decided to design a more accessible version of the equipment, they came to us to help design the patient and technician experience.

Conventional proton therapy systems require a large footprint and cost around $150 million on average, making them out of reach for most hospitals. The ProNova SC360 uses superconducting magnets to dramatically shrink the size, weight and power consumption required to deliver proton therapy treatment. The system is also about half the cost of a traditional units. The compact size and efficient workflow of the SC360 enables a faster patient throughput, which is essential to cover the cost of providing this highly advanced treatment. The goal is to greatly expand proton therapy's availability both in the U.S. and globally. 

ProNova asked us to design the overall experience including system aesthetics, general room layout, and information architecture of treatment interfaces, with the goals of increasing efficiency, accuracy and throughput.

To begin, our team interviewed patients and technicians, observed treatment at several centers, and were trained on an existing proton therapy system. This culminated in a procedure workflow that identified improvement opportunities. The team continuously refined the workflow throughout the development process. 

To test our ideas, we projected concepts of the treatment room on the walls of a squash court to see ideas at scale. We then built a two-story treatment suite, complete with projected images and controls, from plywood and simple materials in our Model Shop for user testing. We also created a functional control pendant based upon the mechanical, UX and electrical design. We then brought technicians into our life-sized treatment suite prototype, going through scenarios for several types of cancer procedures using interface concepts on both the computer and on paper. 

To increase comfort for patients, we designed a more intimate treatment room that features a partially obscured nozzle that lessens the sense of the equipment's scale. Every piece of equipment that a technician or patient would see or touch has a modern, simple cover. The ceiling awning is strategically placed so a patient can watch a projected video during treatment to help the time pass more quickly.  

For technicians, we designed an elegant control pendant, console and single-action snout clamp. Digitally, we defined the workflow for each type of patient treatment and created the information architecture for the five touchpoints used during the procedure. Working with ProNova’s software team, we designed the process and the accompanying screens. We created the user-friendly, information-rich visual design of all digital interfaces. This includes the treatment room projections that communicate procedure status to increase technician efficiency. 

The first SC360 system will be ready for deployment in early 2018, according to ProNova



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