West Midlands paramedics test remote ultrasonic sensor scans

Ultrasound sensor works with a haptic glove worn by a paramedic connected over 5G to a clinician, who provides remote diagnosis

University Hospital Birmingham (UHB) has run a trial using 5G mobile networking from EE to connect paramedics to hospital consultants.

The demonstration, hosted by the Medical Devices Testing and Evaluation Centre (MD-TEC) in UHB’s simulation lab in the Institute of Translational Medicine, simulates a paramedic in the field performing an ultrasound scan on a patient, under the remote guidance of a clinician who can interpret the ultrasound image in real time.

The ultrasound sensor is manipulated locally by the paramedic under the remote direction of the clinician. In the demo, a joystick operated remotely by the clinician sent control signals over the live 5G network to a “haptic” glove worn by the paramedic, which created small vibrations directing the paramedic’s hand to where the clinician wanted the ultrasound sensor to be moved.

According to UHB, the system enables the clinician to remotely control the sensor position, while seeing the ultrasound images in real time. A camera in the ambulance is used to transmit high-definition video of the inside of the ambulance, covering the patient and paramedic, to a second screen on the clinician’s workstation.

UHB believes that enabling paramedics to perform ultrasound scans under the remote guidance of a clinician will speed up diagnoses for patients. The hospital also says it could potentially reduce the number of ambulance journeys and emergency department visits.

Tim Jones, chief innovation officer at UHB, said: “Our clinicians will in the future be able to deliver holistic specialist advice in real time, potentially forming virtual multidisciplinary teams to provide the best patient care using intelligent IT links. Information would be accessible at the point of need, ensuring informed decision-making, leading to improved patient safety, quality of care and patient/clinician experience.”

BT’s EE mobile arm recently switched parts of Birmingham on to the UK’s first 5G services. BT said it has worked with WM5G, the UK’s first region-wide 5G testbed, to illustrate how the technology can deliver significant benefits to the NHS and the wellbeing of citizens across the West Midlands.

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