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UC research finding ways to reduce NZ critical illness costs

UC research finding ways to reduce New Zealand’s critical illness costs

March 25, 2014

Healthcare costs are growing faster than society’s ability to afford them but University of Canterbury (UC) research is finding ways to reduce this economic burden through model-based therapies for critical illness.

In the UC Centre for Biomedical Engineering, researchers are finding ways to reduce growing health costs by engineering therapies for critical illness.

UC’s latest Rhodes Scholar and engineering postgraduate student Hamish Tomlinson has been looking at new systems to solve problems. He says engineering offers a wide range of ways to help healthcare and make it more effective.

"You only need to look around any doctor’s office or surgery to see all the technology that doctors use to realise that, if we can improve the technology or make it more useful, we can significantly impact the cost and quality of care.

"For my honours project, supervised by Distinguished Professor Geoff Chase, I was part of a team designing a computer model-based system to provide insulin to patients in less acute wards of the hospital. Often the patients need insulin but the nursing needed to tightly control and monitor the patient.

"As a result, the high blood glucose levels that occur can hinder a patient’s recovery or even lead to a worsening of condition. This outcome isn’t frequent but adds time and cost to that patient’s care.

"We are looking for ways to advance care that improves outcomes and decreases costs in some fashion, through an engineered means of attacking this problem.

"After graduation next month, I am going to Oxford University for my Doctor of Philosophy and will be part of their physiological understanding through modelling, monitoring and analysis group, which is a research team dedicated to this sort of engineering and problem solving.

"I think my degree at UC and the project I was part of in mechanical engineering gave a significant boost to my ability to pursue this type of research and study at the highest level.

"The project exposed me to many important aspects of biomedical engineering, including foundations in physiology and engineering science, opportunities for original research, and clinical experience guided by Dr Geoffrey Shaw in the Christchurch Hospital intensive care unit," Tomlinson says.

Tomlinson, from Invercargill, is the fourth UC student in four years to win the coveted Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford.

ENDS

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