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Engaging with the medical community in biomedical engineering research


Gale, TJ and Stack, CR and Dargaville, PA, Engaging with the medical community in biomedical engineering research, Proceedings of the 4th Biomedical Engineering International Conference (BMEiCON-2011), 29-31 January, Chiang Mai, Thailand, pp. 298-301. ISBN 978-1-4577-2190-8 (2012) [Refereed Conference Paper]

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Copyright 2012 IEEE

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Achieving quality outcomes from our Biomedical Engineering research relies on effective engagement with the Medical community. This typically takes the form of collaborative research with clinicians, or clinician-researchers, on issues they identify. While this presents opportunities, there are also significant challenges, and the goal of effective engagement and collaboration can be difficult to achieve. Engaging is a complex process – not only does it bring a "second party" into the research, but the project itself becomes more complex. Here we aim to promote engagement and stimulate discussion by considering the process and challenges together with relevant examples.

We can identify a number of stages in the process of typical clinically-relevant research. The first is the preliminary stage of establishing the collaboration, including identifying appropriate potential clinical partners, identifying the real medical needs, educating biomedical engineers on the required medical knowledge and the surrounding medical culture, and developing mutual understanding and trust between engineering researchers and clinicians. The next stage is defining the problem and issues, and the specific aims and methods for the research. A further stage is attracting sufficient funding and competent research personnel. Subsequent stages are undertaking the core technical developments, gaining appropriate ethical and regulatory approvals, conducting an experimental program and trials, and finally, potentially commercialising developed technology.

A particular challenge for clinicians is to invest the required time and energy in the process. Government, professional and personal incentives for clinicians to be involved in successful collaborative research programs are key factors.

Two case study projects are given as examples. The first involves collaborative research in hospital-based neonatal care. This project comprises research into methods and technology directed at improving the delivery of supplementary oxygen to premature babies, including logging data from babies to assess the performance of current systems, and prototyping an improved oxygen controller.

The second case study involves collaborative research in drug addiction rehabilitation with local community-based clinicians. The research in this project relates to improving the safety of take-home narcotic substitute medication. This includes development of technology for secure storage and delivery of the medication and remote assessment of patients, gaining ethics and regulatory approvals for patient trials, conducting trials and analysing results.

Despite inherent difficulties, the case studies illustrate that the benefits of engagement are substantial, and the insight and expert knowledge of clinician-researchers is paramount to achieving quality outcomes. It is hoped that by exposing the issues, difficulties and benefits of engaging the Medical community, wider discussion will be promoted and effective collaboration encouraged.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Conference Paper
Keywords:biomedical engineering, clinical, collaboration
Research Division:Engineering
Research Group:Biomedical engineering
Research Field:Biomedical engineering not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Other health
Objective Field:Other health not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Gale, TJ (Dr Timothy Gale)
UTAS Author:Dargaville, PA (Professor Peter Dargaville)
ID Code:82438
Year Published:2012
Deposited By:Engineering
Deposited On:2013-02-01
Last Modified:2014-09-19

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