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Ground-breaking £1.8million Formula 1 inspired research at Birmingham Children’s Hospital

A pioneering research study at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, using real-time diagnostic information inspired by the world of Formula 1, is aiming to save thousands of children and young people’s lives.

The RAPID (Real-Time Adaptive and Predictive Indicator of Deterioration) project – the first of its type in the world – uses continuously collected data from patients, such as heart rate, breathing rate and oxygen levels, revolutionising how they are monitored; providing vital early warning signs of deterioration that can be swiftly acted upon.

The three-year study, jointly funded by a £1.8 million grant from the Wellcome Trust and Department of Health, through the Health Innovation Challenge Fund, draws on McLaren’s expertise in using hundreds of sensors to collect and analyse real-time data during a race to optimise its strategy on the track.

Tailored and adapted to the world of healthcare for the first time, hi-tech wireless sensors, designed by Isansys Lifecare are attached to the chest and ankle to measure vital signs, which are processed in real-time using McLaren’s data analytics platform, LIFEINSIGHT™.

This technology means that signs normally recorded every one to four hours on paper charts could potentially become a thing of the past with continuous individual monitoring that gives more accurate information helping lead to faster treatment – saving lives and reducing hospital stays.

Smart alarm systems, designed by mathematicians at Aston University, will activate when the baseline levels of individual patients deteriorate alerting nurses and doctors allowing a swift response.

The University of Birmingham is also a RAPID partner with a team providing biostatistical support.

Dr Heather Duncan, Birmingham Children’s Hospital intensive care consultant and RAPID study lead, said: “This technology is truly transformational. For the first time it allows us to analyse patients’ data in real-time in the same way that various other high-risk industries have done for years.

“The ability to track and identify deterioration towards a cardiac arrest will give doctors earlier warning signs and the chance to save lives. I genuinely believe this will change the way we care for patients in hospitals forever.”

As in the consumer world, where wireless technology has improved levels of connection and convenience, the wearable sensors remove the need for cables and leads, which can restrict effective monitoring. This means parents can hold and interact normally with their child while knowing they are being safely and continuously monitored.

Noreen Akhtar, 41, whose six-week-old daughter, Anayah Akhtar, is currently being cared for at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and is taking part in the RAPID Study.

Noreen, from Great Barr, near Birmingham, said: “The wireless technology that is being used has made things a lot easier, especially when it comes to the creating that bond between a mother and her daughter, which is really important.

“When Anayah was being monitored using wires it was difficult to hold her and pick her up. The wireless monitoring means I can do this and move around. It makes the bond more special.”

Sarah Hunt’s two-year-old son, Lucas West, is also being cared for at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, where he already undergone two open heart surgery procedures – the most recent being last week - to help treat his congenital heart condition.

30-year-old Sarah, who is from St Athan, near Cardiff, said: “The wireless monitoring gives Lucas the freedom. He’s very mobile and like most children of his age wants to be on the move. He can sometimes get in a bit of a tangle when he’s hooked up using wires.

“There’s no question he’s happier when the RAPID wireless monitoring system is being used and it still gives me the peace of mind that his condition is being continuously monitored.”

RAPID follows two smaller studies, which proved the technology’s potential. Young Lives, an initial study of 3,000 children in intensive care at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, funded by the Health Foundation Shine programme, showed that cardiac arrests could be predicted using advanced analysis of their vital sign data.

A second study of 40 patients showed that the data could be captured using wireless sensors, allowing children to move around wards without getting wires tangled and pulled off.

Birmingham Children’s Hospital today (11 November) welcomed the Minister for Life Sciences, George Freeman, to meet the RAPID team and find out more about the innovative study.

Minister for Life Sciences, George Freeman, said: “Combining world class Formula 1 data analytics technology with the expertise of the NHS in diagnostics is vital if we are to provide patients with the most innovative 21st century diagnostic treatments, and maximise the efficiency and performance of the NHS. This is just one of many pieces of exciting research we are funding that will help to provide NHS patients with better and more effective care.”

Ian Rhodes, Chief Executive Officer at McLaren Applied Technologies, said: “McLaren has unique expertise in real-time data collection and analysis which is tested week in, week out, over the course of the Formula 1 season. McLaren Applied Technologies harnesses the expertise and mind-set that is prevalent in elite motorsport to develop innovative biotelemetry technology to measure human health. Some of the technology is also being integrated into other clinical trials for conditions ranging from arthritis to stroke recovery. The approach helps to provide continuous, objective measurement of patients that single point assessments cannot provide.

“McLaren Applied Technologies is proud to be collaborating with Birmingham Children’s Hospital and its partners to optimise the care of critically ill children. Using biotelemetry and wireless sensors, we are now able to learn what is normal for each individual child and can alert doctors to any changes. We believe that our expertise has the potential to improve the management of patient deterioration, and crucially, help to save many young lives.”

Keith Errey, Chief Executive of Isansys Lifecare added: “We are delighted that our Lifetouch ‘smart patches’ and wireless patient monitoring platform are being deployed in the RAPID project. Following preliminary studies at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and an Innovate UK Smart Award to redesign our technology for paediatric use, it’s wonderful to see it now operational and starting to really help clinicians and nurses improve the lives of young patients and their families."

The three-year study, which started 12 months ago, aims to recruit around 1,200 patients when it reaches its completion in 2017.

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