(Foto: Bård Gudim)

The Sunnaas Testbed Facilities: 50 years of innovative rehabilitation


Sunnaas Hospital is dedicated to being a driving force in rehabilitation research and innovation, and has proved to be an attractive partner for companies developing new solutions for the health industry.

Tekst: Tom Haavardstun

Sunnaas Hospital’s testbed facilities are spread around the hospital to be as close as possible to the patient, where the real treatment and rehabilitation takes place. Gamified training tools and robots will likely be key elements in the future innovation processes at Sunnaas.

When someone in Norway is in a serious accident with major injuries, there is a good chance that the patient will end up at Sunnaas for rehabilitation and training. Through the years many well-known people have spent hard times here – with the accompanying media coverage spreading the Sunnaas brand.

Innovation has been part of daily life at Sunnaas for 50 years, often through the collaboration with companies. In 2010, the Unit for Innovation was established at the hospital to ensure that the innovation processes were finally systemized and targeted.

–We needed a better understanding on what people involved in this kind of treatment are thinking and of the challenges they meet, and put in place a formal system for how to work with the health industry, says unit leader Sveinung Tornås.

(Foto: Bård Gudim)

Sveinung Tornås is the leader of the Innovation Unit at Sunnaas Hospital. (Foto: Bård Gudim)

Now, when companies eager to test their product or solution contact Sunnaas, they meet a well-prepared organization. They are asked to fill out a form describing what they want to test and the level of cooperation they are applying for. The application is evaluated with the relevant hospital unit. If the project is of interest, it will be established as a project in the Innovation Unit.


Gamified fall prevention

Attensi delivers gamified simulation tools and have worked with Sunnaas on a project to prevent patients from falling. During the pilot period, Sunnaas employees played their way to more knowledge about fall situations.

–The cooperation with Sunnaas has been very close, good and bountiful. We have identified a good approach and the pilot has developed into a full-scale development program with broader applications, says Bjarne Johnson, Partner at Attensi.

Another user of the Sunnaas testbed facilities is Diffia, a company that is developing an innovative mobile solution for health professionals at hospitals. Their service – Nimble – is a clinical platform that uses machine learning to provide faster access to clinical information, smarter documentation, and better communication within the caregiver teams.

According to Diffia co-founder and health UX designer, Soheil Dabestani, the partnership with Sunnaas has been a truly positive experience, with access to facilities and staff essential to designing a solution that the end-users love and find useful.


Close to the clinics

For maximum realism, the testing at Sunnaas normally takes place close to or in the regular clinical units. Dedicated testing labs have been placed around the hospital in conjunction with the clinics. The Innovation Unit also has access to areas like the Movement Laboratory, where the focus is research, innovation and clinical work related to movement and walking ability.

The Virtual Rehabilitation Laboratory is an arena for research and innovation project based on gaming, Virtual Reality and simulation. Here, commercial gaming consoles and custom-designed equipment are used in the training and rehabilitation work. There is also a simulation room that can be set up for different projects, and used for simulation of technology, equipment and procedures.

Recently we established a dedicated Design Lab for designing services or working models.

The training apartments used by patients in the last rehabilitation phase to practice daily life before they return home can also be involved in testbed activities.

–We are an attractive testbed partner for many reasons. We are not among the largest hospitals, but represent a highly competent and specialized environment. The rehabilitation period often stretches over years, providing good testing opportunities. We offer exciting opportunities in fields like gaming, technology, e-health and robotics, Tornås says.

-We are looking forward to more cooperation in the time to come.