An award-winning medical device could save lives. The ECGx/Medibase system, developed by the Medical Engineering Database Solutions (MEDS) team of students from RMIT University in Melbourne, is a groundbreaking technology used in ambulances to allow a patient’s electrocardiogram (ECG) information to be shared with doctors at the hospital in advance of the ambulance’s arrival, leading to more efficient care and improved patient survival.
Jaad Cabbabe, project leader for the MEDS team, explains that the “eureka” moment for the idea came during a discussion with a doctor who used to work in the emergency department at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne. “The idea just clicked,” says Cabbabe.
“It offered a solution to a real problem that exists in hospitals and is not currently being addressed.”
Although ambulances in Australia use state-of-the-art ECGs with communication capabilities, the current technology doesn’t transmit patient data to doctors in advance of an ambulance’s arrival to hospital, which means doctors have to wait for vital patient information before they can formulate a diagnosis and treatment plan. Also, within hospitals ECGs are currently shared between doctors by fax or scanned photograph – methods that are neither efficient nor secure.
The ECGx/Medibase system transmits a patient’s ECG data to a central database, where medical professionals can access it, leading to a reduction in waiting times for diagnosis and treatment. The system has the capacity to save time, facilitate information sharing, improve consultations and decision-making, and allow doctors to more precisely target the needs of patients.
The ECGx/Medibase system is designed to be technology “agnostic”, or designed to to allow communication between the range of technologies currently being used by ambulances and hospitals.
The system won the prestigious Telstra University Challenge 2015: Connected World award in September. Cabbabe says the win has given the team a huge benefit through access to Telstra’s technical and commercial expertise and resources, helping them plan ahead, with the ultimate aim of commercialising the system. The team has also been invited to apply to muru-D, Telstra’s technology incubator, which provides upfront funds and state-of-the-art facilities for new technology start-ups.
The system is currently at the prototype stage, and requires further technical development before it can be considered for a field trial. “The next six months developing the working prototype will be key,” says Cabbabe. “But the real world application and the various [ECG] technologies we are proposing to work with is our biggest technical challenge.” The ECG technologies used in ambulances are not currently able to communicate with hospital systems, posing a technical challenge for the team.
Other challenges include navigating legal and regulatory hoops for medical devices, and passing their third year exams.
– Carl Williams