EUH ICU Pilots New Patient Monitoring System

October 2013

In an effort to streamline the often-overwhelming barrage of data that has traditionally tracked patients' conditions and vital signs in the ICU, and to be better equipped to use that data to foresee patient complications, the Emory University Hospital ICU is using a new patient monitoring system that could allow clinicians to acquire, analyze, and correlate medical data at a volume and velocity that has never before been possible.

The project falls into a major data movement in healthcare, with companies trying to make better use of the vast amounts of information in medical records, hospital monitors, and other sources.

The research application developed by Emory uses IBM's streaming analytics platform InfoSphere Streams with Excel Medical Electronics' bedside monitor data-aggregation application to collect and analyze more than 100,000 real-time data points per patient per second. The software developed by Emory then produces patterns that create an overall picture of the patient's health, and identifies patterns that could indicate serious complications like sepsis, heart failure, or pneumonia, aiming to provide real-time medical insights to clinicians.

Dr. Timothy Buchman, director of the Emory Center for Critical Care, initiated the evaluation of this new system. He hopes that by creating a more coherent picture of patient readings, physicians will eventually not only be able to have a clearer understanding of how each patient is doing, but also detect possible complications and thereby prevent them.

One of the challenges of developing the system is to make it relatively simple to both learn and use. "We're just at the point of accessing the data. There's a lot of work to be done to develop that visualization. But that's the goal. We want to free up the minds of doctors, nurses, and other caregivers. We want them to be able to focus on the patient, not the computer," he says.

Dr. Buchman is aware that his work involves prototype technology. He acknowledges that the evaluation is in its early stages, and that it will probably be about two years before Emory can begin studying how well patients do under the new monitoring system compared to patients with more conventional care.