Technology pioneered in aviation security is being used by researchers to see if it can help prevent complications after surgery.
Researchers from the Academic Surgery Unit at University Hospital of South Manchester are collaborating with Lancaster University to develop a new healthcare technology based on an aviation security system designed to give pilots maximum information and advance warnings about the health of their aircraft.
Lancaster University aviation security expert Professor Garik Makarian is developing a real-time patient monitoring and risk prediction system, similar to those used by pilots to monitor the safety of their aircraft.
Professor Makarian said: “There are a lot of parallels between flying an aircraft and observing a critically ill patient. Both the surgeon and the pilot are dealing with a lot of information coming from a variety of sensors. They both need to know not only what is happening now but what might happen in the future and safety is absolutely critical.
“During a flight a pilot has to make decisions based on complex information coming from up to 1,000 sensors in the plane. He or she needs to know not only what is happening to the aircraft right at this moment, but what is likely to happen in the future.
“When a patient is critically ill or recovering from surgery, doctors monitor the patient’s blood pressure, temperature, pulse and other vital signs very closely but have to rely on their experience to predict what is likely to happen next. Pilots have the additional benefit of tools to help them do that. This new tool has the potential to give doctors an extra layer of intelligence to draw upon.”
The new tool is being designed to make sense of a diverse range of patient data to provide healthcare professionals with a clearer indication of what might happen to their patients in the near future, buying them precious time to take preventative action. Doctors can then potentially access this information at any time, even from home on their laptop or phone.
The tool is in the early stages of development, but once up and running it is hoped that it will have applications in a number of different healthcare settings.
Professor Charles McCollum said: “University Hospital of South Manchester is one of the largest surgical centres in the UK and our academic surgery unit has a track record in predicting the risks associated with surgery. This collaboration with Lancaster University has enormous potential to really benefit patients.”