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by James Baker
It was concerning to read this week’s headlines about Sepsis, a life threatening condition that arises when the body’s immune systems goes into overdrive in response to an infection or injury. Sepsis can lead to shock, multiple organ failure and death if not recognised early and treated promptly.
For those of you who missed the coverage, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence guidance (NICE) urged medics to consider Sepsis early on when treating any patients unwell with infections in order to reduce the 44,000 deaths each year in the UK. This number is more than bowel, breast and prostate cancer combined. With earlier diagnosis experts estimated that between 5,000 and 13,000 deaths could be avoided. This made me wonder if technology might help in earlier diagnosis.
Sepsis is challenging and complex to identify and there are a number of established Sepsis screening protocols and tools which look for an escalation of vital signs including increased heart rate and respiratory rate, altered body temperature and increasing white cell production. It is clear more robust systems and processes are needed to aid early detection without increasing the operational burden on health care practitioners, who already operate in a high pressure environment.
Our approach to helping with challenges like this is to first understand the needs of the stakeholders and then find or create technologies that can address them. This approach lead to the development of our award winning First Response Monitor, a triage device for use in disaster situations.
Our initial research into Sepsis diagnosis leads us to believe that our First Response Monitor contains sensing technologies that could be re-targeted for Sepsis screening as well.
Imagine a situation where such a device could be deployed early in the diagnosis process. The parents of a little girl take her to the GP as they believe she is ill. The doctor asks her some questions and takes a few measurements. It looks like flu but there is a chance it might be something more serious. They are advised to return home and make sure their daughter rests, drinks lots and wears a neat little monitoring device overnight.
The next day, the system has logged several hours of continuous data and shared the key parameters with the supporting smartphone App and connected cloud servers. The doctor has been automatically notified by the service that the girl’s breathing heart rate and body temperature are trending in a direction that causes concern. He contacts the girl’s parents and recommends that they take their daughter to the hospital, highlighting a concern about possible Sepsis.
The starting point for medical device innovation is often a vision of a better future supported by the technology building blocks to make it a reality. As well as designing and engineering the device and making sure that it works reliably and is easy to use, trials are often needed to show it is effective and safe in the clinical environment before it can go on the market. It’s an expensive process and to make it worthwhile healthcare providers must be prepared not only to change and adopt new ideas, but also to purchase them at a price that makes it worthwhile for innovators to take these risks.
Let’s hope that together innovators and healthcare providers can successfully reduce the impact of this disease. If you would like to hear more about our approach please contact James Baker at Cambridge Design Partnership on +44 (0)1223 264428 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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