McLaren Applied Technologies

How McLaren use Formula 1 technology to improve healthcare

Adam Hill, Chief Medical Officer (LinkedIn Pulse)
McLaren Applied Technologies

When McLaren Applied Technologies was created almost three decade ago, people looking in understood we could use racing as a sandpit to develop technology for motorsports and the automotive industry. 

From there, it wasn’t much of a leap to see how we could take that into other forms of transport, and today, we have both an Automotive and Public Transport business.

With healthcare it was different: our ability to tackle critical challenges in health was not immediately obvious to the outside world.

That said, true innovation isn’t derived from being predictable. It comes from pushing boundaries, working with partners who share your ambition and finding the diamonds in the rough to achieve those incremental gains.

And with something as important as our health, continuous improvement really is performance critical. 

Now, let’s put it in context. Motorsport is the interaction between man and machine. If you go into a hospital, you see a similar thing. Modern healthcare is driven by optimising interactions between a biological system, or patient, and often a sensor technology reliant upon sensors.

The main difference between a hospital and a racetrack? 

Instead of drivers and engineers, we have patients and doctors. For me, the similarities between these two worlds make them a good fit – and that’s exactly why I’m confident in our abilities to deliver real improvements in health. 

Yes, there are many areas of medicine that are highly optimised. In those, there’s not a lot more we can do to engineer better health outcomes.

But there are key areas, which promise a significant delta between what we’re doing today where we believe we could be doing more to make that difference in patient outcome. 

Providing even a very small amount of extra insight where patient behaviours play a very significant role can lead to radically better results.

And we’ve already started. 

Initially we began with elite athletes in partnership with UK Sport – but this type of technology quickly found its way into healthcare applications. 

Next we went directly into our own health system, the NHS. Here we started by developing a simple technology designed to provide objective information to support weight loss in obesity, with an eye on ultimately preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes.

The solution: a system which provided data to show how much energy was being expended by patients prescribed an exercise routine by their clinicians. 

It was simple, but effective: by wearing the technology, we created a feedback loop. Patients were able to see how much work they were doing and were far more successful at losing weight. So with only a small amount of the right insight we could drive the correct behaviours, in an incredibly powerful way. 

This shows the power of data to drive change. It can be incredibly effective when used to inform patient behaviour.

The main advantage? It is accessible, can have a real effect on outcomes, and does not risk the negative side effects of more aggressive therapies.

So what next for Applied Technologies in health?

I believe there are five therapeutic areas where we can do what we’re here to do, have impact and improve lives.

Diabetes; respiratory medicine; cardiology; mental health; bone and joint health.

And we’ve already started on the latter, supporting orthopaedic surgeons achieve better outcomes.

How? Consider a joint replacement procedure and the resulting movement of the joint.

When it comes to bone and joint health, clinicians don’t use good, objective functional data, but instead, rely heavily upon X-rays. That’s a structural dataset. To really make a difference, make a change, you need the full picture: functional datasets of the way in which people move. 

You can then analyse the loading patterns around about the joint in order to inform the best type of reconstruction with all the data available, and drive an improvement in patient-outcomes from surgery.

But this is only the first leg of our journey. Applied Technologies is growing fast in health, from the UK to Singapore.

And our mission in health is only growing.

As a team, we will create intelligent products and processes to improve health outcomes, reduce health inequality, at a cost that we can afford. 

It’s all about improving lives. 

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