Intensive care innovations win Microsoft award

An academic team which includes key researchers from the Universities of Manchester and Hull has taken both first and second prizes, in a nationwide innovation competition run by Microsoft.

Dr Paul Dark, a Clinical Lecturer in Intensive Care Medicine from Manchester Medical School based at Hope Hospital, and Drs John Purdy and Rob Miles of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Hull, mentored and supported students to develop innovative, software-based products to support intensive care. The students then entered their ideas into Microsoft's Imagine Cup, a technological 'Olympic games' which sets top young technologists from around the globe on the world's toughest problems.

The theme for the awards this year was "Imagine a world where technology enables us to live healthier lives." Dr Dark said:

"It is so rewarding to achieve this national recognition for ideas which were first initiated here at Hope, and to know that our winning entry will now be developed into a prototype with the support of Microsoft UK. This is a web-based diary for Intensive Care patients, who are invariably unconscious for a considerable time due to their condition or the nature of their treatment.

"The fact that they miss a significant chunk of their lives can have serious psychological repercussions, which in turn can slow down their physical recovery and make it harder for them to adapt to new circumstances. It's already been shown that when family, friends and hospital staff keep a written diary of what's been happening, both to the patient and in the wider world, it can help their psychological recovery.

"Our online approach takes this a stage further, allowing people to add multi-media content to the virtual diary from anywhere in the world at any time - and empowering a patient's loved ones to contribute to their recovery."

The team will now go forward to represent the UK's higher education community in the global final of the competition in Delhi in August, where it will present the prototype for the final stand-off and a $25 000 prize. The idea will also be trialled in the Intensive Care Unit at Hope.

The team is also eager to develop the idea which took second place in the competition with a commercial sponsor. Dr Dark said: "Obviously a major concern for hospital units of all kinds is the spread of hospital-acquired infections, and there has been a concerted drive towards the adoption of routine hand-washing by staff to help combat them. Our idea is to introduce a Bluetooth-based wearable ID tag that is able to remind staff to wash their hands upon entering and leaving a patient area, while recording the event automatically in a digital log and providing accountability for staff."

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