Health patients may benefit from aviation industry technology applied to healthcare

The Organisation

The University Hospital of South Manchester, a major acute teaching hospital trust, provides services for adults and children at two sites, Wythenshaw Hospital and Withington Community Hospital, as well as a number of community services previously operated by Manchester Primary Care Trust. The trust helps patients across the northwest of England and beyond, and is recognised as a centre of clinical excellence. Their specialist expertise includes cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery, heart and lung transplantation, respiratory conditions, burns and plastics, and cancer and breast care services.

The Challenge

Doctors need to know as much as possible, as soon as possible about their patients’ ailments and their associated risks. A team from the Academic Surgery Unit at the University Hospital of South Manchester, led by Professor Charles McCollum, collaborated with Lancaster University's Science and Technology researchers to develop new technology for healthcare, based on an aviation security system designed to give pilots maximum information about the health of their aircraft and advance warning of problems.

Expertise Sought

  • Aviation security expertise
  • Experience with risk predictive software

The Solution

The School of Computing and Communications at Lancaster University has research expertise in communications and networking, computer systems, intelligent systems, software engineering, and human-computer interaction.

The School of Computing and Communications’ aviation security expert, Professor Garik Markarian, drew upon his years of experience to develop a real-time patient monitoring and risk prediction system, similar to those used by pilots to monitor the safety of their aircraft.


The new tool has given doctors an extra layer of intelligence to draw upon. It has been designed to make sense of a diverse range of patient data to provide health care professionals with a clearer indication of what might happen to their patients in the near future, buying them precious time to take preventative action. Doctors can then potentially access this information at any time, even from home on their laptop or phone.

Benefits to the company

  • Buys doctors precious time to take preventative action against risks
  • The tool will have applications in a number of different healthcare settings

Benefits to the university

  • Developed the university’s knowledge of risk preventative software

Benefits to the society

  • Increased efficiency of aid to patients
  • Allows prioritisation of treatment

Company Feedback 

"The University Hospital of South Manchester is one of the largest surgical centres in the UK and our Academic Surgery Unit has a track record in predicting the risks associated with surgery. This collaboration with Lancaster University has enormous potential to really benefit patients." Professor Charles McCollum, University Hospital of South Manchester.

"There are vast amounts of clinical data currently collected which is not analysed in any meaningful way. This tool has the potential to identify subtle early signs of complications from real time data. If the aviation technology can be successfully transferred to healthcare it has the potential to provide doctors with information which could improve outcomes for patients." Dr Stuart Grant, Research Fellow in Surgery, University Hospital of South Manchester.

Researcher Feedback 

"There are a lot of parallels between flying an aircraft and observing a critically ill patient. Both the surgeon and the pilot are dealing with a lot of information coming from a variety of sensors. They both need to know not only what is happening now but what might happen in the future, and safety is absolutely critical. During a flight a pilot has to make decisions based on complex information coming from up to 1,000 sensors in the plane.

"When a patient is critically ill or recovering from surgery, doctors monitor the patient's blood pressure, temperature, pulse and other vital signs very closely but have to rely on their experience to predict what is likely to happen next. Pilots have the additional benefit of tools to help them do that. This new tool has the potential to give doctors an extra layer of intelligence to draw upon." Professor Garik Markarian, School of Computing and Communications, Lancaster University.

Future Plans

The team are exploring possible new projects with the university and continue to work with Professor Garik Markarian.