Manually removing patient dressings to visually inspect chronic wounds could soon become a thing of the past. Ireland’s leading ICT research centre, Tyndall National Institute (Cork), has teamed up with medical equipment provider Fleming Medical (Limerick) and Holst Centre/TNO (Eindhoven, Netherlands) to develop the world’s first commercially-available “smart dressing” for use in futuristic wound care applications. Chronic wounds are an increasing and costly healthcare issue, particularly in countries with ageing populations. The “smart dressing” will make wound care easier, more comfortable for the patient, and more cost-effective for healthcare providers.
The smart dressing, called ‘DermaTrax’, contains sensors that monitor conditions in a patient’s wound, including its temperature, moisture and pH. DermaTrax will autonomously monitor both the condition of the wound and the dressing itself, relaying information to a nurses’ station via a wireless link. Nurses and other medical staff can be alerted to the possible presence of infection and other healing issues without the need to remove the dressing, which can disturb the patient and interrupt healing. The miniature sensor module will be flexible and thin enough to fit inside a typical dressing without affecting the patient’s comfort.
Mark Fleming, CEO of Fleming Medical, said, “DermaTrax will revolutionize current practice, which involves the manual removal of a dressing and visual inspection of the underlying wound. This is time-consuming for the nursing staff, uncomfortable for the patient, and disturbs the natural healing process. This hi-tech dressing will generate significant savings in healthcare costs, due to reduced clinical inspection time and shorter hospital stays as a result of faster wound healing.”
Mark Fleming, CEO, Fleming Medical & Dr. Paul Galvin, Head of ICT for Health at Tyndall National Institute at the launch of the “Smart Dressing”
As Dr. Conor O’Mahony, project leader at Tyndall, explained, “The cost of chronic wound-care can be very high. For instance, in the UK alone, around 200,000 patients are treated for chronic wounds yearly at an estimated annual cost of £4 billion. Because of this cost, it is vital for patients and the taxpayer alike that these wounds are managed effectively.”
Dr. Paul Galvin, Head of ICT for Health at Tyndall, noted that exciting developments such as these are expected to play a major role in the ongoing expansion of health-related technology projects at the Cork institute, which anticipates involvement in medical projects worth over €10M by 2018. He explained that collaborations like the project with Fleming Medical are producing broad benefits to Ireland’s medical research and development industry.
“This smart dressing product will not only result in a significant addition to Fleming Medical’s product portfolio – it will also increase Ireland’s standing as an international hub for medical device research and development,” said Dr. Galvin.
Artist’s impression of the DermaTrax smart dressing (Credit: Fleming Medical)
Dr. Jeroen van den Brand, Program Manager at Holst Centre/TNO adds to this, “Our research focusses on integrating sensors and electronics into flexible materials, without compromising the characteristics of these materials. One of our activities is the development of health patches that measure vital signs varying from skin temperature to ECG. Applying this knowledge to the development of smart dressing fits perfectly with in the scope of our research.
The collaboration between Tyndall National Institute, Fleming Medical, Holst Centre/TNO and Philips Innovation Services is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2010 Ecsel Joint Undertaking programme under a public-private partnership project codenamed ‘InForMed’ (grant nr. 2014-2-662155), which is led by Philips Electronics Netherlands BV. The consortium comprises 39 partners from 9 countries, who aim to form a manufacturing ecosystem where new medical devices can be seeded and nurtured to grow into new business opportunities. The project is co-funded by grants from national organisations around Europe, including Enterprise Ireland.
About Tyndall National Institute
Tyndall National Institute is a leading research centre in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) hardware and systems integration. Specialising in both electronics and photonics – materials, devices, circuits and systems – Tyndall supports industry and academia in driving research to market in its core areas of ICT, communications, energy, health and Agri-Food & Environment. With a network of over 200 industry partners and customers worldwide, we are focused on delivering real impact from our excellent research. Tyndall is based in Cork, Ireland and employs over 460 researchers, engineers and support staff, with a full-time graduate cohort of 125 students. The institute generates over 200 peer-reviewed publications each year. We are experts at designing, miniaturising and prototyping products particularly in the electronics, medical devices, energy, communications and photonics sectors. www.tyndall.ie
About Fleming Medical
Founded in 1987, Fleming Medical has been supplying the Medical and Pharmacy trade with a wide range of products since it’s’ inception. The company has annual turnover of €11 million, with 3500 active accounts across the Pharmacy, Hospital, General Practitioner and Community Care sectors. Key product categories include Woundcare, Diagnostics, Infection Control, Incontinence Care, Medical Consumables and OTC lines. Fleming Medical possesses many long standing relationships with medical device manufacturers and key opinion leaders in the hospital and pharmacy sectors. Technical support and clinical training are services that are also offered. The company is compliant with ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 13485:2012, and also possesses a Medicinal Wholesale Licence granted by the Health Products Regulatory Agency. The company consists of 55 employees across numerous departments – Field Sales Representatives, Field Sales Merchandisers, Customer Services, Procurement, New Product Development, Graphic Design, Marketing, I.T., Accounts, Regulatory, Equipment Sales and Service, Warehousing and Business Development/Exports.
About Holst Centre
Holst Centre is an independent R&D center that develops technologies for wireless autonomous sensor technologies and flexible electronics, in an open innovation setting and in dedicated research trajectories. A key feature of Holst Centre is its partnership model with industry and academia based around roadmaps and programs. It is this kind of cross-fertilization that enables Holst Centre to tune its scientific strategy to industrial needs.
Located on High Tech Campus Eindhoven, Holst Centre benefits from, and contributes to, the state-of-the-art on-site facilities. Holst Centre has over 200 employees from some 28 nations and a commitment from more than 40 industrial partners.
About InForMed – “An integrated Pilot Line for Medical Devices”
In the InForMed project, an integrated pilot line for medical devices will be established, covering the complete innovation chain from technology concept to system qualification. Uniquely, the integrated pilot line is hosted by a large industrial end-user, and is specifically targeted and equipped to bridge the gap in the landscape of micro-fabrication of medical devices between concept creation and full-scale production.
42 partners from 10 countries participate in the project to form manufacturing networks and an eco-system where new medical devices van be seeded and nurtured to grow into new business opportunities for Europe, in a time when there is a paradigm shift from large expensive diagnostic equipment towards small, disposable, minimal invasive and unobtrusive diagnostic and therapeutic instruments and tools. The pilot line will be demonstrated by six demonstrator products which cover traditional, emerging, and entirely new market segments, in the domains of “Hospital and Heuristic Care as well as “Home Care and Well-being,” and that demonstrate the trend towards “Smart Health” solutions.
InForMed is an ECSEL JU project and is co-funded by grants from Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Swiss. The ECSEL Joint Undertaking (JU) co-ordinates European electronic component and system research and development activities through competitive calls for proposals. It is a public-private partnership, bringing together the ECSEL member states and associated countries, the European Union (through the Commission), and three associations (EPoSS, AENEAS and ARTEMIS) representing the actors from the areas of micro- and nano-electronics, smart integrated systems and embedded/cyber-physical systems.