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A month or so back, I posted an article, Trust Me I’m an Engineer – Should doctors look to engineers to help us live longer? Since writing this article, it has stimulated much debate not only within the engineering community but also within the medical profession. Interest from the blog led to me to being invited to the Royal Society of Medicine – Medical Innovations Summit on the 5th July. It was a pleasure to attend, and the summit gave a fascinating insight into some of the medical developments that are going on in this area.

Here are some examples I picked up from the summit:

Dr Ali Parsa, the former Chief Executive of Circle – the first private company to manage an NHS Hospital, has teamed up with BUPA to create Babylon – a smart phone app based health screening service, with on-line appointments and consultations with your doctor and access to specialist consultants. Babylon is a virtual health service on a smart phone and is the first service of its kind to be registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and receive designated body status from NHS England. Although Babylon is only currently operating in the private sector, it is easy to see how smart phone technology, both the processing power and communications capability of these devices, combined with developments in low cost sensor technology, will have a major impact on our access to healthcare in the not too distant future.

Another example of smartphone technology revolutionising access to health care was described by Andrew Bastawrous, an ophthalmologist. He spoke about harnessing mobile phone apps and hardware to create an easy to use, affordable and portable system for testing eyes anywhere in the world – from surgeries to patients’ homes. He described an inspiring project using this technology where a team of engineers and ophthalmologists have been working in remote areas of Ghana to bring eye care to communities where curable blindness conditions are being detected and cured for many thousands of people. The system, called PEEK,  has the potential to revolutionise our access to eye care using smart phones.

At the Royal Academy of Engineering a few weeks ago, the Enterprise Hub showcased a number of innovative new concepts. One, which was pioneered by Dr Stephen Smith of the University of York, showed how the use of sensors and smart phones were used in the diagnosing and monitoring of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Also at this event, it was really encouraging to hear Dr Hermann Hauser, a key player in the founding of ARM, the UK Company behind the chip technology in iPhones and iPads, who felt that the next big technological breakthrough was going to be the application of medical monitoring in healthcare using smart personal devices.

In conclusion, it’s encouraging to see that doctors and engineers are already working together to help improve the detection of medical conditions, the way we monitor our health and the way we access our medical services.

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