City innovators are saving lives
THE contribution of Exeter-based companies and organisations to life-saving innovations in healthcare was showcased at an event in the city.
Guests at the latest Exeter Initiative for Science and Technology (ExIST) forum were given an eye-opening introduction to how robotics are being used in surgery and how the Met Office is helping to reduce deaths caused by changes in the weather.
Roger Killen, founder of the Learning Clinic, also explained how his business is helping the NHS to cut the number of avoidable deaths in hospitals in the UK. The company's VitalPAC system sees nurses recording information from routine observations of patients on an iPod Touch instead of the traditional paper-based system.
The software then alerts medical staff to any changes in the patient's condition, which could otherwise take longer to notice because of shift changes and the number of variables being monitored.
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Mr Killen said one hospital had seen around 500 fewer deaths a year since using the system. Intensive care admissions were also reduced because condition changes are spotted before they become critical, saving around £2m a year.
"Every hospital we are rolled out across has always renewed their contract with us," he said, adding that the worldwide market for the technology was estimated at £1bn a year.
John McGrath, consultant urological surgeon at the Royal Devon & Exeter (RD&E) Hospital, gave an insight into how advances in robotics are transforming surgery.
And the way in which surgeons are trained could soon change after research carried out in Exeter revealed that a focus on eye movement could help surgeons hone their skills more quickly – potentially reducing the variation in outcomes between procedures carried out by experienced and novice surgeons.
Patrick Sachon, health business manager at the Met Office, said there were more than 30,000 excess deaths in the UK each year because of cold weather.
The Met Office is developing a national alert service for the million people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease so they can prepare for changes in the weather which will exacerbate their condition.
"What we are trying to do is develop health forecasting services that will help keep people well," he said.
Guests also learned how Brain-in-Hand is developing smartphone technology to help people with autism, Asperger's and other conditions manage their daily routine, with support provided when stressful situations arise.
ExIST was launched last year to showcase the activities of city businesses and researchers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.
Chairman Robert McIlwraith said the network continues to grow but is still particularly keen to develop links with more small businesses.