How doctors are trying to streamline patient data in the ICU

Can 'big data' keep intensive care patients healthy?

Emory University Hospital is developing bedside monitoring technology that consolidates and analyzes ICU patient data to create a clear picture of each patient's health and needs, the Associated Press' Mike Stobbe reports. 

Emory's prototype streamlines data, predicts stroke

Tim Buchman, director of Emory's Center for Critical Care, has overseen the ICU big data project since it launched in 2010.
  • Using a prototype bedside monitor from Excel Medical Electronics, the system consolidates medical data, such as respiration, blood pressure, and the gases that patients exhale.
  • That data then goes into InfoSphere Streams, an IBM-developed software program that analyzes more than 1,000 data points per patient per second.
  • The software then produces patterns that create a big picture of the patient's health. It also estimates whether a patient is at a high risk of developing a stroke, heart attack, or other serious medical conditions.

A streamlined data system could prove particular useful when the Joint Commission in June 2014 starts requiring that hospitals enforce policies to prevent "alarm fatigue," which was a factor in at least 80 deaths in U.S. hospitals over the last three and half years.

Joint Commission issues Sentinel Alert on alarm fatigue

Buchman says he is still two years away from beginning to determine whether the system is more effective than conventional ICU monitoring. 

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Part of the 'big data' movement

Emory's ICU project is part of the broader, "big data" movement in health care, which aims to improve preventive care and address systemic issues in health care, such as alarm fatigue. Stobbe notes that Emory's project is one of several efforts at hospitals, including:
  • Columbia University in New York, where researchers are studying how big data can be used to detect early signs of ischemia in stroke patients;
  • Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, where physicians are using InfoSphere Streams to predict dangerous changes in brain pressure in patients with traumatic brain injuries; and
  • The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, where physicians are using patient data to identify early signs of hospital-acquired infections in NICU patients (Stobbe, AP/Modern Healthcare, 11/3 [subscription required]).

  • What is Crimson—and how can it help my hospital? From billing systems to electronic medical records, there's no shortage of useful data—but where do you start?

    This video explains how Crimson Clinical Advantage is helping over 1,000 health care organizations turn the chaos of big data into big outcomes.

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