"The skin has the information and the infrared camera can tell the story what is happening"
HC 150 is a new thermal heat camera from FLIR designed together with paramedics and specialized for their needs.
In emergency situations the job of a paramedic is to get as much information as possible from the patient and treat all life-threatening injuries before reaching the hospital. Therefore, it is important to get an overview over the patient with all injuries. For example, internal bleeding, a stroke diagnosis, localizebone fractures and disturbed blood circulations are serious and the faster they get a better diagnosis the better they can help the patient and the hospital can prepare a surgery room for the special situation.
So far, they had to depend on the experience of the emergency doctor and the paramedics. But a device with an infrared camera can find the invisible and provide them a better diagnosis. Several examinations have shown that this technology is trustable. I questioned myself, why is still nobody using it on field. Through my research I figured out that there is no optimal device on the market. The existing ones are produced for another application area and are too big, unhandy and the interface is not adjusted for this use case. But today's technology could fit in the size of a smartphone and AI could help to decode the information to make it easier and faster to understand it in extreme situations where time is the most important factor.
In cooperation with FLIR the goal was to provide a project that explores and communicates the complexity of designing a product in today´s design identity, core values and desired customers.
Before I had started my research and user studies I asked myself:
Can a thermal heat camera support the paramedics?
From the ambulance station visit I learned about their work routines and problem areas. In emergency situations they have just a little time to get an overview over the patient and which injuries they have to treat before arriving at the hospital. Furthermore, they try to stay as short as possible at the accident scene and give the patient after the first diagnosis the needed medications. One statement of the emergency doctor was decisive for my further action.
„With a life-threatening emergency, the survival of a victim often depends on professional medical help and their work experience."
Even with the tools in an ambulance today, invisible injuries like internal bleeding, a stroke diagnosis, localize bone fractures and disturbed blood circulations stay undetected. In the hospital they need a computer tomography to detect all this factors. But the time between accident site and hospital is important and decides between alive or dead. Professional examinations with infrared cameras have shown amazing results what can be detected with this invasive technology. So far the emergency doctors had to trust in their experience which invisible injuries the patient is suffering.
The paramedics are facing another problem to find veins in extreme situations when the time is short, the blood pressure of the patient low and therefore they can't find any good veins to give injections.
I interviewed several paramedics and showed them how an infrared camera works and how it could support their daily life. Together we defined the parameters of a new specialized device and tested several prototypes. The result was the new FLIR Camera HC 150.
It is a combination of two main functions. The thermal heat camera helps the paramedics to find invisible injuries and to get a faster and precise diagnosis over the patient. The size is small and always ready to hand. The information from the device will be used to support their decisions and further treatments. The images can be sent to the hospital to provide them early with information. In addition the images can be part of the medical report afterwards. The second function helps the paramedicsafter the diagnosis to administer the medication. Infrared light can penetrate the skin up to 1 cm and makes collapsed veins visible. The device can be attached to the strap on the arm and gives the paramedic free hands.
The interface has to be as easy and understandable as possible and quick to handle. Therefore I reduced the main menu to the minimum and provide them only the options they really need. The touchscreen can be used even with the protection gloves and is similar to manage as a smartphone. Before they scan a person they have to remove the clothes. Only the skin can give the information to read for the infrared camera. They can decide between scanning over an iconic body (template) for a better overview and to search and zoom afterwards through the result or use the life image for an even quicker feedback.
How AI technology could be useful in this scenario
A special course for the user will be necessary to understand how to use and read the infrared imaging information. But AI could be supportive in the future. A computer could calculate and decode the image in seconds and provide the user only with the needed information. The result can then be sent to the hospital to provide them early with information about the patient injuries. They can overview the image on a bigger screen and decide which areas are important to scan through a computer tomography and prepare the surgery room.
The design of the device is simple, handy and easy to clean. The design language from existing FLIR products was adjusted to the new application area. The robust shape gives a strong and durable aesthetic with a high quality. It is the first kind of infrared camera for the medical field and has look trustable and hygienic.
For a successful market entry salespeople from FLIR could go to the ambulance stations and present the new tool and give included courses when selling the product. Therefore they can win confidence of the customer and attract attention. This product can be the first step for FLIR in the medical sector and opens them a big market with lots of opportunities for their devices like finding breast cancer, a specialist surgery room light with an included infrared light or camera for patient monitoring in the hospital room.
I also believe that this device can find a remedy in the third world where expensive medical machines like computer tomography is rare and people have less experience.