Alder Hey’s Innovation Team and clinicians are working with different companies on a range of products and ideas. Some are well developed while others provide opportunities for new partnerships and collaboration.
The Trust’s innovation team is working with Liverpool’s Sensor City, a £15m venture between the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) to consolidate the city as an international centre of excellence for sensor design and manufacture. Sensors are used capture data on a vast range of events or changes in the environment such as humidity, temperature and pressure, the data can then be analysed and monitored to identify patterns or send information to a device to respond to the condition identified. Alder Hey clinicians are working with partners to ensure that children’s healthcare takes full advantage of this technology and makes sure that it is used as widely as possible to improve patient’s care, experiences and outcomes.
One exciting project currently underway is the development of a prototype sensor to monitor children’s blood without the need for a needle. BioSensors Ltd, in partnership with Alder Hey and LJMU has been awarded £1m of funding from the Small Business Research Initiative for Healthcare to develop a small wireless sensor which can read defined bio-chemical markers in the blood through the skin without breaking it. This provides valuable diagnostic information and saves children from potentially distressful procedures. The data gathered by the sensor is fed to a mobile device for immediate analysis so that clinicians can track the patient’s progress in real time and be alerted to any changes in the patients condition.
3D printing is increasingly being seen as important new technology for the NHS. Alder Hey is in the unique position of having 3DLifePrints embedded in the hospital.
Generally surgical teams use CT or MRI scans to plan operations but 3D printing means that the surgeons can now hold an accurate model of the part of the body they are operating on before going into surgery. This gives surgeons a better idea of what they will encounter during an operation and so can reduce the length of time a patient is under anaesthetic. They have also been used for the training of medical staff and to help explain procedures to parents and give them a better understanding of what surgery can achieve for their children.
A number of studies are currently being undertaken to examine how 3D printing can help improve clinical outcomes, including one to see how it can be used for improving hip dysplasia surgery which is one of the most common problems for children following hip disease. This study contributed to Alder Hey and 3DLifePrints winning the Stand Out Contribution Award of a Business Partner at the North West Coast’s Annual Research and Innovation Awards. Future clinical trials are also being planned for learning about ankle fractures and how 3D printed models of the skull and soft tissues overlays can allow cranio-facial operations to be practiced beforehand.
An advanced 3D model of a spine (based on the MRI scans provided by Alder Hey) has recently been used in a complex operation to treat hyperkyphotic scoliosis because of a congenital spinal anomaly. The model of the spine was used for pre-surgical assessment and planning and then sterilised and brought into the operating theatre to provide further guidance during the course of the operation.
Neonatal virtual visiting
The neonatal virtual visiting programme allows parents to see their new-born babies when they can’t be with them and tackles the issue of potential parent /child bonding dysfunction. Parents are given an iPad to take home when they are not on the neonatal unit. This is linked to a secure server on the neonatal unit and using an advanced teleconferencing platform a high definition image is sent from the unit to parents. This enables parents to watch their child and and ask the nurses questions about their care. I can also be used to show family members’ faces to the baby, providing a much needed link between the hospital and home.
Alder Hey at Kidzania
Kidzania is a 75,000 square foot, child sized city based at the Westfield Centre in London where children learn real life skills through fun and inspirational role play. It is designed for children from 4-14 years old and comes complete with buildings, airport, streets and districts – and an Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. The hospital scenarios, while fun, aim to educate and empower children around health and medicine, reducing their fear about hospitals and hopefully inspiring the doctors, nurses and health workers of the future.
Iain Hennessey, Clinical Director of Innovation and consultant surgeon at Alder Hey worked closely with the Team at KidZania to make the scenarios as realistic as practical for the young medics. The visitors have a choice of being a paramedic or surgeon in the emergency department and a nurse in the baby unit – they are even able to operate on dummy patients!