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Cancer care and self-driving cars

Mike Butler became fascinated by the process through which patients were treated after being diagnosed with cancer.

After being diagnosed with cancer Mike Butler, Ford’s quality director, saw an opportunity to introduce practices from the car manufacturing facility into the treatment process of cancer patients.

Butler and the team at the Ford assembly plant in Cologne, Germany researched and developed changes that are now being implemented as part of what is expected to become Germany’s biggest dedicated cancer outpatient unit.

Furthermore, this has since developed into a two-way flow of ideas. Hospital staff at the renowned Centre for Integrated Oncology (CIO) at the University of Cologne are using their big data techniques to help Ford explore future vehicles.

“I spent five years in treatment rooms and thought about how I could make life easier for patients,” said Butler, who is now in remission from colon cancer. “There was a real lightbulb moment when I realised that many of the systems that ensure car plants run smoothly could be applied to the hospital. Now there is an ideas exchange that is benefitting patients today, and could also help the way we move tomorrow. The more we work together the more synergies we find between our work at Ford and the challenges faced in cancer research.”

It all began in 2008 where Ford engineers met with medical staff to demonstrate the efficient practices and advance technologies that were being utilised at the Ford Fiesta Cologne plant, one of the world’s most competent vehicle production plants.

Designed to ensure treatment is less stressful and faster, coloured lines on walls and floors make it easier for staff, patients and visitors to find their way around.

Large screens will help make communication between key medical employees easier. The team also proposed flexible rooms with removable dividers rather than rigid wards and fixed nursing stations.

“Medicine is an ever-changing science where small changes have a huge impact on the lives of patients,” said Prof Dr Michael Hallek, the director of the CIO – that has been repeatedly honoured by German Cancer Aid as one of the top oncological centres in Germany. “With Ford’s help, we are making huge improvements that will benefit the lives and treatment of future patients for years to come. And hopefully, some of our methods of doing things will help Ford to develop what mobility might look like in the future.”



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