00:23, 19 August 2012
00:31, 19 August 2012
Children in intensive care are being monitored by the same technology developed to analyse the performance of Formula 1 cars driven by Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.
The computer software, which is being used in medicine for the first time, can alert doctors if a critically ill child starts to deteriorate far earlier than conventional systems used in NHS hospitals.
It learns what is normal for each child, making it responsive to even slight changes, and can take hundreds of measurements every minute to keep track of their condition.
Normally, the multi-million-pound technology – developed by McLaren’s electronics arm – is used on Formula 1 circuits to measure how well a supercar is performing.
Damian Singh, pictured with mother Magdalena, is one of the first children to be monitored by the new system at Birmingham Children’s Hospital
The technology that propels Jenson Button and McLaren team mate Lewis Hamilton to podium finishes is being used to monitor critically ill children in hospital
It also helps technicians to work out when a racing car needs a pit stop for an oil or tyre change.
But following a chance meeting between a McLaren electronics engineer and an NHS paediatric consultant, it has been used in Birmingham Children’s Hospital for a ground-breaking trial. Experts say very few changes to the software have been needed in order to convert it for use in intensive care wards.
The system – essentially a computer programme which can be installed on any IT system – allows doctors to get a constant picture of how a child is doing by comparing several different clinical measurements.
When used in Formula 1, around 130 different sensors fitted to the vehicles measure factors like speed, temperature and oil levels, and transmit them wirelessly to the database.
The system tells engineers if there is a problem and allows them to use predictive modelling to work out what to tweak to get the best performance. As many as 750 million readings can be taken during a 100-minute race.
On a hospital ward, medical sensors placed on a child’s body take measurements such as heart rate, breathing rate, skin temperature, oxygen levels and blood pressure, and send that information to the new database.
The software can handle and compare far more information than current systems. For example, it can take a heart electrocardiogram reading 125 times a minute, rather than once an hour.
Doctors have noticed that the system alerts them far earlier to signs that a child’s condition is set to deteriorate, by picking up on subtle changes not likely to be recognised by current surveillance systems.
It also allows doctors to see at a glance how all children are doing and
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