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Several members of the University of Oxford Critical Care Research Group attended the Intensive Care Society 'State of the Art' conference held in early December at the ExCel convention centre in London. Verity Westgate, one of our research co-ordinators, wrote about her experience of the event.

I was delighted to be able to attend the Intensive Care Society annual State of the Art conference in London at the start of December.  Having moved into clinical research management, specifically in the field of critical care, after ten years working as a librarian in the humanities, I am keen to learn as much as I can about the topics and priorities relating to our research group.  I was somewhat nervous that the content might be unintelligible to an outsider but ended up being impressed by how accessible much of the content was (and how much I have learned over my year in the field!).

There is insufficient space in a blog post to do justice to a three day conference, so I will concentrate on some of the highlights.

On the first day, the “Creating the Future” session covered astrophysics, Formula 1 and Google.  Kevin Fong, consultant anaesthetist at UCL Hospitals, London, and expert on space medicine, began his career as an astrophysicist before becoming a medic and has spent a lot of time working with the medical teams at NASA.   He has a particular interest in high risk operations and how they work to mitigate the risk.  Talking about the Hudson River plane crash, he noted that having a clear set of procedures for the pilots, based on previous data/experiences was valuable; the aviation industry has a long history of human factors work that can be drawn on by the medical industry. Adam Hill, Chief Medical Officer at McLaren Applied Technologies, talked about what intensive care medicine can learn from Formula 1 technology.  In particular, he noted that systems integration is key to cars, and this idea is beneficial to healthcare, so they have been working also in healthcare for the last decade.  Dominic King from Google DeepMind talked about a vital signs/alerting app being produced in association with the Royal Free Hospital in London. This will also provide an overview of key patient information, including the patient journey, imaging, and test results.  He made the point that before we can really start to use artificial intelligence in healthcare, we need to put the technical infrastructure in place, and to move away from pagers and paper lists.   

The theme of creating the future was continued on Tuesday with a session “The rise of the machines”.  The highlight of this was undoubtedly Richard Trimlett, consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at the Royal Brompton Hospital, London, and Alex Berry, director of Sutrue (developer of a novel device designed to make suturing easier, more consistent, and safer) discussing the possibilities of 3D printing – I particularly liked the idea of surgeons being able to print the tools for their operations, designed exactly how they want.  In the future, the whole of an ICU could be 3D printed!

On Wednesday, the most engaging session was “Ethics: end of life decision making”, in particular Dale Gardiner (from Nottingham University Hospitals) talking through the practical application of ethics to a bedside scenario.  By the end of the session, thinking through all of the aspects, I had changed my mind on the best approach to his scenario, which demonstrates the importance of taking into account and weighing up a multitude of factors in decision making.

The most inspiring session was “The view from the ICU bed” with Alex Lewis and Alex Crick.  Alex Lewis contracted Strep A in 2013 which developed into Strep A Toxic Shock Syndrome, Septicaemia and Necrotising Fasciitis; as a result he had a quadruple amputation and spent over a year in hospital.  Alex Crick was his plastic surgeon and talked through the process of treating Alex and the importance, right from the start, of having a big picture in her head of all of the different procedures that would be required.  Alex’s perspective now on the situation, after so much difficult surgery and such a fundamental change to his life, is that he feels lucky to be alive and has a renewed sense of purpose.  This positive approach in the face of such horror was very moving.

It was exciting to see good representation from my own research group at the conference. Matt Rowland was part of the faculty team leading questions after presentations and moderating twitter discussions across the conference, Alice Gerth and Julie Darbyshire presented posters on health related quality of life after discharge from the intensive care unit and interim results from the SILENCE project, and Jo Poole delivered a short talk on ventilation practices. For Alice and Jo this was the culmination of their time spent with the University of Oxford Critical Care Research Group during their junior doctor academic training programme within the Oxford Deanery.

Tweeting during the conference, both from my own account (@BruceReindeer)  and the research group account (@KadoorieCentre) added an extra layer of interaction – especially helpful for introverts!  Tweets (there were 10,500 of them over the three days!) added clarification, opinions and other things of relevance to the topics discussed. To search for tweets from the conference use #icssoa2016

Coming away from the conference I had a list of reading to do, from books and articles mentioned during the presentation, new people to follow and learn from on twitter and am looking forward to hearing the podcasts of some of the sessions which caught my eye that conflicted with other ones I was interested in.  I also came away with a not-so-secret now ambition to have taken on some research responsibilities such that I could present a poster at this conference in the next couple of years.

#ICSSOA2017 will be held at the ACC Liverpool, 4-6 December 2017. See you there?

Useful links:
Intensive Care Society

Presentations from #ICSSOA2016 are available here; you might also like to take a look at last year 2015: Presentations, podcasts from #ICSSOA2015 #FOAMed 

ICM Case Summaries: Collection of expanded case summaries from intensive care medicine #FOAMed

The Bottom Line, summary and discussion site for critical care papers #FOAMed

Verity Westgate, Research Co-ordinator

@KadoorieCentre twitterfeed