Shifting Gears

McLaren has been a fixture of the Formula One circuit for half a century, but the company is now applying the technology it uses to monitor drivers and racing cars to solve health challenges



It seems a long way from the world’s Formula One tracks to analysing health data, but for McLaren Applied Technologies it is a road worth travelling. The McLaren organization has been racing Formula One cars for half a century – but with its Applied Technologies arm it has now diversified.
 
The company now utilises its expertise in real-time data capture, originally developed for motorsport, across industries that affect our everyday lives, including public transport, automotive and perhaps most importantly, health.
But how can technologies created for motorsport actually improve people’s lives? Hundreds of sensors located on each Formula 1 racing car pick up a staggering range of information (in some cases, hundreds of thousands of times per second) about vehicle and driver, which in effect means the car’s engine control unit (ECU) becomes a data hub.
 
This multitude of datasets is analyzed by engineers and strategists to derive insight. Mclaren then uses this insight to make evidenced decisions, which provides the engine for continual improvement.
 
“Every time we go round a lap, our strategy could change, continually improving to win the race,” says Adam Hill, Chief Medical Officer of MAT. “We close the loop by acting on the decision we make – and measure its impact. The same techniques used to optimise the interaction between the car and driver in motorsport can be applied to optimise the health of a child in an intensive care unit, for example.”
 
The same technology that gives split-second assessments of how an engine is performing on a particular bend can be used to monitor patients in real time, and Applied Technologies expertise in analyzing the data can also be applied to health environments. 
 
The company has worked closely with the NHS, including a pilot with Birmingham Children’s Hospital to extend heart monitoring in the intensive care unit (ICU) into a step-down environment.“In an ICU there are lots of wires, tubes, pipes and pumps,” Hill explains. “That means you can’t move far from the bed, so the first challenge was to monitor with wireless, battery-powered technology.”
 
The next challenge, he says, was to ensure that the various channels of data could drive appropriate decision support tools, allowing health professionals to identify whether things are starting to go wrong and to support timely intervention.
 
In addition to the NHS, the company has also partnered with a large pharmaceutical company to look at ways of using the data created through the manufacturer’s R&D operation to help researchers make more informed decisions about drug discovery.
 
In one pilot, Applied Technologies used its sensor and telemetry expertise to monitor recovery in stroke victims and in patients suffering with severe arthritis, recording patients’ mobility.
So what’s next for Applied Technologies in health? The company’s forward strategy over the last two years or so has been based around what it calls ‘Digital Therapeutics’.
 
Digital Therapeutics are companion technologies, such as smart inhalers, which know when a patient has used them, can tell whether the device has been utilized correctly, and can provide contextual information (such as how high the pollen count was) when the patient used it. Such an approach is considered particularly potent now, he thinks, because of the potential for this digital influence to improve outcomes.
 
“The ability to capture, analyze and make decisions on data and to act on those decisions is essential to the efficient and effective delivery of modern healthcare,” he says.
 
“Consumer demand is higher now than it ever has been, and it’s only going to increase in the years to come.”
 
Hill asserts one major driver of digital therapeutics is the shift from treating whole populations to taking an approach which is more highly personalised. 
 
Another is the way that health authorities are moving from volume-based, to value-based reimbursement.“It’s a systems-based approach to answering questions,” he explains. “Our offer depends on domain knowledge as well as technical expertise.” 
 
In theory it would be possible to take Applied’s knowledge and experience into many sectors.
“Hypothetically it can be applied to any challenge – but our business needs to be sustainable,” Hill points out.
 
In the UK and the US, Applied Technologies is looking in particular at musculoskeletal conditions, the management of which accounts for a staggering 4.5% of US GDP, Hill says.
 
Adam Hill will be sharing his insights at the eyeforpharma Medical Affairs Europe 2018 event 

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