Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Caversham Heights Society

THE one event put on by the Caversham Heights Society during February was a fascinating, informative and encouraging talk by Professor Rachel McCrindle, from Reading University, on “Can new technologies transform healthcare?”

The topic is not only important in itself because of the increase in artificial intelligence and robotics but because our ageing population is adding to the costs of running the NHS and will need additional help and support at home in the years ahead, especially given the crisis in care homes and hospital beds.

Of those born in 2013, at least one-third will reach 100 years old. Out of every 100, 10 will have a stroke, 15 will suffer from dementia, eight will get asthma, 30 will become diabetic, 12 will lose their sight and 80 will need additional support in some form or another.

Fortunately, biomedical engineering is becoming a vital area of medical care because of recent developments, ranging from very expensive to affordable, from sophisticated to simple.

AI is now able to detect at least 50 eye diseases, breast cancer, atrial fibrillation of the heart, diabetes and other diseases.

Robots can operate on patients through keyhole surgery with a surgeon operating via a screen but with much greater detail and accuracy than previously thought possible. Robots are also getting smaller and more manoeuvrable.

The benefits are that patients make a speedier recovery and can thus be discharged from hospital more quickly.

Different parts of the body can also be made through 3D printing. Plastic or metal body parts can be produced at low cost thus “augmentng reality”.

Such approaches can be used in training new doctors as well as for in-service training of general practitioners.

Apparently several departments at Reading University are working closely with the stroke unit at the Royal Berkshire Hospital and the patients within it to identify and develop gadgets that can enhance the wellbeing and quality of life of stroke victims.

This is a far cry from the basic rehabilitation treatment through physiotherapists and occupational therapists that was available 20 years ago.

Prof McCrindle also demonstrated how gadgets such as mobile phones and watches could be modified to help the recovery of stroke patients.

All in all, this was an inspiring and well-presented talk to an audience which had only a limited knowledge of medical matters.

Meetings of the society are held at Caversham Heights Methodist Church hall in Highmoor Road on alternate Wednesdays at 8pm after coffee. For more information, visit www.cavershamheights.org

Keith Watson

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