The EBME Expo took place this week (28-29 June) and proved to be a well-attended and informative event – providing a showcase for thought-provoking insights into biomedical engineering and operating theatre technology.
This year, the event moved to the Coventry Building Society Arena (formerly the Ricoh Arena), Coventry, UK. This larger venue was chosen to allow expansion and to enable the event to host a second conference on ‘The Operating Theatre’.
The speaker sessions focused on understanding how technology can deliver improved outcomes at lower cost, while the exhibition provided opportunities to view the latest innovations – from patient monitoring and diagnostic solutions, to integrated theatre equipment and cutting-edge digital technologies.
Among the topics discussed included the increasing integration of MedTech and the interoperability challenges ahead. There will be increasing connectivity with the electronic patient record, with connected systems delivering intelligent clinical decision support, in the future. Artificial intelligence will also increasingly become part of this transformation.
However, delegates heard how we have a long way to go. In the NHS, 99% of medical device data generated is still not recorded or charted in the EPR. John Sandham, chair of EBME, pointed out that it takes between two and twelve hours after collecting vital signs data from patient’s monitors before nurses enter it into medical records. Furthermore, the manual entry of this data leads to error rates of 17%. Ultimately, the information that data provides saves lives, yet 6% of patients’ lives are lost in ITUs because this data is transcribed incorrectly.
Biomedical engineers will also have to get to grips with the challenges of ‘the hospital at home’, but the question was raised of ‘who will manage and maintain the equipment required to deliver this care?’ A show of hands suggested that the majority of delegates did not want to travel around the community, visiting patients’ homes to manage the necessary medical technologies. This will need discussion and sensitive negotiation in the future – a willing workforce will be essential to the success of such initiatives. Urgent discussion is also needed around how equipment should be managed in the community – should there be a take-back scheme for medical devices and how exactly should this be coordinated?
Other key issues were raised during the conference, including the fact that biomedical engineers are not given the recognition or pay they deserve. This makes it hard to attract new recruits into the profession. Other engineering sectors offer much better pay and working conditions, so we need to address this disparity. Some delegates also commented that there is a need to work closely with schools to promote the profession, as there is currently poor awareness of biomedical engineering as a career opportunity.
Operating theatre staff are the largest group of medical equipment users in hospitals and the conference tackled some key issues – from sustainability in theatres, including the impact of anaesthesia gases on the environment, to the potential risks posed to staff and patients around medical technologies. Inhalation of surgical smoke, from electrocautery and lasers, continues to pose a threat to the health of operating theatre staff, while Lindsay Keeley, from the Association for Perioperative Practice (AfPP) highlighted a case of a patient who had suffered serious burns, as a result of a surgical fire. Ensuring medical technologies and innovations are used safely in the operating theatre is vital, therefore.
For further details on the issues raised at the conference and updates on future events, visit: www.ebme.co.uk