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A British hospital is using software developed by McLaren Electronics for its F1 team to save the lives of children in intensive care.
The system was developed in order to monitor the Woking team's cars during races and tests, giving the engineers vital feedback on various aspects of the car's performance.
However, a chance meeting between a McLaren engineer and a paediatric consultant has led to the system being tried out at Birmingham Children's Hospital (BCH).
Whereas on the cars the system, which features 130 sensors and gives over 750 million readings over the course of a race, was used to measure various aspects of performance, including fuel use, temperature and even tyre wear, at BCH it has adapted for use in monitoring the condition of the children's health, the sensorts now monitoring such things as heart rate, breathing rate, skin temperature, oxygen levels and blood pressure.
"It's very exciting, a huge transformational leap," Dr Heather Duncan, a consultant in paediatric intensive care at BCH, told the Mail on Sunday. "We have different parameters that are useful for us - like heart rate, breathing and oxygen levels coming in, rather than tyre temperatures and gear ratios - but otherwise it's exactly the same.
"Formula 1 engineers do lots of real-time monitoring during races and look at performance and modelling to see when they should change tyres and have pit stops," she continued. "They're predicting, essentially, which we don't tend to do in healthcare. Although we can always see what is happening at the bedside, we can't see trends over time. This software lets us do this - and it could improve a child's chances of survival.
"At the moment it's intuitive for a racing engineer but less so for clinicians," she added. "For example, breathing rate kept coming up as 'revs per minute'. So there's some tweaking to do."
The software, which was developed by McLaren Electronics and is used across Formula One, has been donated it to BCH for the trial, however, there are plans to commercialise it for use across the NHS.
"It's been really interesting for our engineers to work alongside doctors at BCH," said Peter van Manen, managing director of McLaren Electronics. "If we're able to do something differently to make health care better then we'd welcome that. We would love to be able to offer it to NHS hospitals around the country."
The last word goes to Magdalena Singh, whose four-year-old son Damian was monitored using the software after surgery to correct a congenital heart defect.
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