Covid: F1 technology powers new PPE communications kit for medics

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Covid: F1 technology powers new PPE communications kit for medics

image copyrightGetty Imagesimage captionThe device is based on technology used by drivers and pit crew membersAcademics have teamed up with Formula On

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image copyrightGetty Images

image captionThe device is based on technology used by drivers and pit crew members

Academics have teamed up with Formula One engineers to develop a new device to help medical staff communicate while wearing masks and visors.

The MedicCom is based on technology used by F1 pit crews and drivers during races.

The University of Leicester team said it reduced communication issues encountered by medics dressed in head-to-toe personal protective equipment.

They said the new technology was ready to be rolled out across the NHS.

image copyrightUniversity of Leicester

image captionHospital trials on the device were described as “successful”

The MedicCom uses a throat microphone to pick up and amplify sound, which enables patients to better hear medical staff caring for them.

The same function also allows doctors and nurses to hear each other more clearly, while a Bluetooth connection links to a mobile phone, enabling the doctor or nurse to hold a clear telephone conversation with the patient’s relatives.

It has been funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Innovate UK, and created with the not-for-profit group Project Pitlane, made up of Formula One racing engineers.

image copyrightUniversity of Leicester

image captionProfessor Tim Coats has worked with Formula One race engineers to develop the device

Tim Coats, professor of emergency medicine at the University of Leicester and a consultant in emergency medicine at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, said MedicCom had been successfully trialled and was now ready to be rolled out across the NHS.

“Even if someone is standing next to you, if you’re head-to-toe in PPE, you have to be shouting to be able to hear one another,” he said.

“Not only is that exhausting, but we know that this can cause errors of miscommunication which could potentially harm patients.

“Good communication has a profoundly positive effect on patient care, and that is why we started work on a solution.

“Working with the F1 engineers has been brilliant.

“We’ve been able to use their expertise in advanced electrical engineering and their facilities for rapid prototyping to produce in six months a device which would normally take years.”

The university said the prototype had “been positively evaluated” by clinicians at hospitals in Leicester and the Medical Devices Technology Evaluation Centre in Birmingham, and they would now seek more funding to roll it out across the NHS.

Project Pitlane, which unites on-track competitors and personnel from across F1 and motorsport, was created in March 2020 to answer the UK government’s call to produce essential supplies for the pandemic response.

Bob Bell, Alpine F1 team strategic advisor, said it had been “a pleasure” to work with the university to develop “a novel medical communications device to assist NHS clinicians wearing PPE”.

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