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Our latest wearable medical device has been showcased as part of a staged emergency scenario on popular UK television technology show, The Gadget Show. The episode aired last night on 19 October 2015 at 7pm on Channel 5 and can be caught via on-demand services.

The First Response Monitor is a new compact device designed to measure and monitor the vital signs of multiple trauma patients for emergency response in disasters and battlefield situations, ensuring speedy diagnosis and treatment. Sensors on a simple nose clip record a patient’s breathing and heart rate, providing an instant indication for a medic to read. This information is recorded and stored, and can then be transmitted using Bluetooth low energy to a smartphone or tablet, where an app allows analyses such as multiple patient triage or situational awareness across the group.

Following the launch of our monitor last month, we were invited to take part in a televised challenge which focused on cutting-edge medical technology. So I travelled to SafeSide in Birmingham, an interactive training centre used by schools to teach children about safety, taking the First Response Monitor, where it was put through its paces in a staged road traffic accident (RTA). The Gadget Show presenters Jason Bradbury and Amy Williams went head to head with doctors Pixie McKenna and Dawn Harper from Embarrassing Bodies, a light-hearted UK TV science programme, to stabilise and rescue multiple casualties. In the scenario, Jason and Amy used different devices and apps to try to stabilise and care for their casualties while the doctors manually assessed patients without the aid of technology.

Not having been on a film set before, I was impressed! With a limited filming window of just a couple of hours, it was remarkable to see how the team could arrive on set, scout out their surroundings and build up a plan of how every scene and camera angle could come together to create the segment. They had no opportunity to come back and film later, so the team was prepared to capture every cut-away and snippet they might need and get them recorded.

The presenters were willing to spend some time playing with the gadgets before the filming and had a relaxed approach, appearing to ‘go with the flow’ and ad-lib most of their lines and actions without any prompting or pre-planning. It was refreshing to see that not everything on TV is scripted and predetermined!

Jason was given the First Response Monitor and quickly applied the sensor clip to a patient’s nose, while monitoring their vital signs on a smartphone. Although only a single patient was being monitored in this scenario (rather than a mass casualty incident) he was able to quickly read that their vital signs were all within healthy limits - and he could continue to treat the simulated wound (with more gadgets!).

Although our device was primarily designed through working with the UK Ministry of Defence with first response medics in mass casualty incidents in mind, it has applications in many other fields – such as civilian medicine, as this filming situation highlighted – where the monitor would be available in first aid kits at workplaces or public transport settings. Untrained civilians could be guided through first-aid and triage processes by a fully featured app.

The military version was designed to be used by trained medics, but through carefully mapped out user interface design, a consumer smartphone app could ‘hold the hand’ of anyone untrained in first aid, and enable them to quickly assess and stabilise the patient. This highlights the importance Cambridge Design Partnership places on human factors, usability and good User Interface design to make a product intuitive and simple to use in a stressful situation.

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