Eve Gibbons, an MSc student in the School of Simulation and Visualisation at The Glasgow School of Art, has developed an App with a series of interactive simulations that demonstrate the ease of germ transfer.

The aim of the project is to raise awareness about unconscious behaviours that can potentially trigger contaminations between individuals and their environment, which is especially important in the context of the Coronavirus. 

“I was inspired to undertake this project by the statistics around the misuse of PPE,” explains Eve, a Biology graduate who was attracted to study for an MSc in Medical Visualisation & Human Anatomy by an interest in harnessing new technologies to support medical practice. “Violations in protocol usually occur through subconscious mistakes such as adjusting the face mask with unclean hands and gloves.”

“They are much more frequent than you would expect,” she adds. “Coupled with the invisible aspect of contamination, it’s easy to forget that even the smallest of actions can have a big impact.”
“Even looking beyond the use of PPE among healthcare staff, with the recent mandatory use of face masks in public, it’s evident that even with the best of intentions, the unfamiliarity with masks and people being misinformed, mistakes are common which can, unknowingly, help spread of the virus. When you are forced to see contamination in a tangible and interactive way, it’s much more real,” 

Eve hopes that the prototype App can be further developed as an educational tool for people working and wearing PPE.

“I would hope that the development of the App might have a real benefit for those using PPE on the front-line in ultimately raising awareness of how easily cross-contamination occurs and the importance of it in not only stemming the spread of COVID-19, but infection control practises in general.” 

Emerging technologies have the potential to make a significant impact in the medical sphere. Eve’s main supervisor, Dr Matthieu Poyade of the GSA has recently been working on AMRSim, a major Antimicrobial Resistance research project led by the GSA’s Professor Alastair Macdonald, which visualises the spread of pathogens in small animal vet practice.

In the current context of global pandemic, it is crucial to find ways to raise awareness about unconscious behaviours in order to promote behavioural changes among healthcare workers and the public,” says Dr. Matthieu Poyade  “As mobile devices are nowadays widely owned interfaces able to render complex animated graphics, there is an opportunity to create new informative channels of communication across the society.”

Eve has also been working closely with Dr David Fitzpatrick, Senior Lecturer in Health Sciences at the University of Stirling University, a paramedic with 25-years of frontline experience with the Scottish Ambulance Service.

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, the use of additional personal protective equipment (PPE) – such as aprons and face masks – was relatively infrequent in pre-hospital care. As the pandemic evolved, training and education on PPE was enhanced for ambulance clinicians, however, we know that breaches in the application and use of PPE can still occur,” says Dr Fitzpatrick.

“This pilot study aimed to identify the common areas where infection control breaches involving PPE occur. With further development, this approach could support and improve ambulance clinicians’ knowledge and understanding and, in turn, lead to changes in behaviours and actions during their application and removal of PPE.”
“The rapid development of this easy-to-use app by Eve and her supervisors demonstrates what can be achieved with a collaborative approach involving experts from different specialisms and backgrounds.”

The MSc in Medical Visualisation & Human Anatomy at The Glasgow School of Art is delivered in partnership with the Anatomy department in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Glasgow, and is accredited by the Institute of Medical Illustrators. It stands as the interface between creative practice and advanced interactive computer graphics development at the service of medical communication. 

What Not to Do with PPE will be featured on the GSA’s Postgraduate Showcase 2020 which launched on 19 August. It will include work by over 250 students graduating from taught Masters Programmes.