Designing the life-saving laboratory that fits in a paramedic’s pocket

Designing the life-saving laboratory that fits in a paramedic’s pocket

The blue lights are flashing. The siren is blaring. Paramedics are rushing to respond to a 999 call where a woman is believed to have had a stroke. Their actions over the next few minutes could make the difference between life and death. This critical scene is replayed multiple times every day across the country. Stroke is the fourth biggest killer in the in the UK.

Approximately 100,000 happen every year. And the staggering cost of stroke to society is around £11 billion a year; half of that falls to the NHS. While the ‘Face Arm Speech Test’, widely known as FAST, is a good way of identifying potential strokes, there are many different conditions that have identical symptoms.

It can be extremely challenging for non-specialists to accurately differentiate true strokes from these other conditions. In fact, 50% of the  time paramedics suspect a stroke, they are actually wrong. This high degree of misdiagnosis results in enormous pressure on specialist stroke units during a period that is crucial for the patient’s survival and long-term recovery. But a pocket-sized piece of pioneering medical technology could help paramedics, doctors and nurses diagnose strokes quicker and more accurately. And Coventry University is playing a key role in developing it.

Paul Magee, a Senior Product Designer within Coventry University’s Research Centre for Intelligent Healthcare (CIH), has been involved in the project since 2016. The incredible innovation has been led by Sarissa Biomedical, a Coventry-based Warwick University spin-out company, which has created a SMARTChip. This is a new glucose strip-like blood test to help identify within minutes patients who may be having a stroke.

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