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A walk on the Dark side

Three Pair meet ICU consultant Paul Dark

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Imagine Cup Here at Hull we've been working away on our Imagine Cup entry, a system that can provide a personal history for patients in Intensive Care Units (ICUs). All relevant information – be it from doctors, friends or family members – can be accumulated against a timeline and accessed by the patient when they are sufficiently conscious to make sense of it all.

We had a week out to finish off our coursework and then last week we really cracked on. We're keen to go all the way with this project, there are so many people out there who could benefit from it.

There hasn't been a great deal to blog about because we've really been working on the overall system design; daily scrums have been held and a wall full of design docs and Gantt charts produced. It was a learning experience to say the least. If nothing else comes of them, we can tick a box off on our 'to-do' list, after all it’s not like we’re going to use those UML diagrams :D

On Friday last week we jumped aboard a train and headed off to Manchester to meet Intensive Care Consultant Paul Dark. Paul had invited us over to shadow him as he performed his day-to-day work on the ward. From this visit we hoped to get a much broader insight into how our application will really help people.

We arrived at the hospital mid-afternoon, Paul showed us around, introducing us to the staff and individual patient cases. Technology was prominent throughout the ward, systems and monitors present at the side of every bed. We noticed, however, that a great deal of paper-based administration is carried out on the ward and within the hospital in general. We actually saw shopping trolleys full of notes being carted around. We were told that the move away from paper-based systems is in progress but has been a long time coming.

Technology has been advancing at a rate of knots over the past few years but without grants and government funding it's use in the Health Care industry seems almost unexplored. During discussions with Paul he went over many ideas he had for the use of technology in the hospital, they all seemed perfectly sound, he just couldn't find the interest or funding to take the projects further. It seemed a real shame that good ideas, that could really benefit people, can fall by the roadside.

Our visit to Manchester lasted three days, each of which opened our eyes to some new aspect of ICU care that we had never even considered. Paul showed us as much of the ICU and High Dependency Units as he possibly could. Which was of great benefit to us and has helped to shape our design for the system, a hands on 'in the field' approach is going to be top of our lists during any future developments we embark on. So long as 'in the field" doesn't actually involve any of us getting admitted to an ICU ward to test the system.

As a bit of light relief and in the true spirit of the Imagine Cup Road to Delhi; Paul took us out for a slap up curry at a restaurant situated along Manchester's famous Curry Mile, perfect for getting in practice for August. One thing we need to make sure we do is stock up on the old Imodium…

On our last day in Manchester we met Mel, a senior sister on the ward. For some time now she has encouraged friends and family to document their loved ones' stay in ICU using paper-based diaries. Mel had some great pointers on what friends and family are looking for, what benefit they can get out of it and most importantly, what benefit the patients can get out of it. It really helped put it all into perspective listening to people who deal so closely with patients and family. It really helped us understand the impact that little things, written in a diary by loved ones, can have on patients.

Now we're back in Hull, it's raining as always, and we're starting to prepare for development, we have research taking place and tool development going on, why write code when you can write code that writes code for you! If there's one thing the team has brought away from Manchester, it's an all-round good feeling about the project! ®

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