Applying Knowledge Makes Predictive Healthcare Fly

by Mark Wechsler | Arrow Systems Integration

Applying knowledge gained in a specific area to solve problems in a seemingly unrelated area can sometime yield surprising results. Those of you who have spent time with me know that beyond healthcare my passion is aviation (helicopters in particular.) That’s why I could not have been more interested to discover research in the field of predictive healthcare and advances in cardiac care are directly attributed to the real-time monitoring technology used in today’s modern aircraft.

Today’s aircraft (e.g., Airbus 321, Boeing 777) have thousands of sensors that continuously monitor flight characteristics, equipment performance, and the physical environment both inside and outside the machine. Much of the information is evaluated in real time and fed back to the pilots These on-board flight systems also predict failures. They inform the cockpit of the very real possibility of impending issues requiring proactive in-flight measures and they report less pressing problems that can be dealt with through ground crew maintenance. The analytics buried within these monitoring systems rely on a wealth of historical data from which normal and abnormal operation is assessed and predicted. It in no small way contributes to the extraordinary safety and reliability of today’s commercial airliners.

You are likely wondering what possible connection could exist between airplanes and healthcare. Let me explain…..

Consider the human body. It has a large number of very specialized, complicated parts, just like an airplane. Each organ and its components (e.g., ventricles, arteries, nerves, valves) has a unique set of operating specifications and parameters that define normal and abnormal conditions, just like an airplane. The body’s organs inter-operate in a complimentary manner forming a coordinated system, just like an airplane. The malfunction of any one of the body’s parts can result in a catastrophic failure, just like an airplane!

Mathematicians and software engineers are applying knowledge and analytics used on-board airplanes to predict cardiac patient problems. There is an extraordinary amount of information (e.g., blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, glucose levels, ureic output, body temperature, respiration rate) collected in real time. Work is underway to build applications that will evaluate the patient’s “flight data” to predict upcoming problems by comparing it with in-depth historical information collected from more than 30,000 patients. Testing has thus far demonstrated a 75% accuracy rate and the expectation is that 85% accuracy is achievable.

The results could be dramatic. Consider the cost savings and quality improvements that would be gained if physicians more accurately forecast not only when, but the severity in which a patient was going to experience cardiac arrhythmia. Delaying the patient’s discharge by 24 hours to head-off the ensuing problem would have major benefits for everyone, not the least of which could be saving the patient’s life. The capability to apply this approach in other areas, given the amount of patient information collected automatically through telemetry and diagnostic testing, has widespread application in other specialties (e.g, urology, endocrinology).

Predictive knowledge regarding the patient condition can have a major impact on the quality and cost of care. However, this new-found knowledge will only be as good as the access to it. In many cases the value of predictive patient knowledge is likely to be time and context sensitive. Proactive communication services coupled with multimedia, device independent collaboration, and automated notification will be needed for the right person to get the right information at the right time. As in so many other areas of healthcare, the Advanced Communication Services we design and provide are an important component of the overall solution.

Oh, and if you’re at all interested, join me flying!

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The thoughts and opinions in these blogs belong to the individual blogger and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Arrow Systems Integration.