Experts work to create 'smart ICU'

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Photo credit: Getty/Olivier Le Moal

Intensive care units (ICUs) have been particularly resistant to changes hospitals must make to adapt to the modern landscape, but now experts are working to design “smart” ICUs to bring them into the modern era.

ICU staff in major cities including Baltimore, Boston and San Francisco, are calling in experts from other fields for redesign help, according to STAT. Lack of interoperability between technologies is one of the major problems, according to Peter Provonost, M.D., a critical care physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital, who also is director of the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality.

Medical devices, such as drug infusers, ventilators and pumps, rather than being interconnected, are all designed to outdo one another in volume, with nurses answering a false alarm an average of once every 1.5 minutes, according to the article. Numerous hospitals have named “alarm fatigue” as a major patient safety issue, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Provonost has enlisted a team of experts, including submarine and spacecraft engineers, to build a better ICU and reducing alarm fatigue.

In addition, other ICU issues that need to be addressed include ability for nurses to check bed angles during each shift and raising beds to prevent pneumonia. However, nurses' currently full plates often prevent such measures from getting done.

The “smart ICU” Provonost is planning features sensors that monitor the bed’s angle, at a cost of only $2 per bed. The team also is looking into sensors monitoring the compression devices used to prevent clotting in patients, which are often left unplugged, as well as interoperability between patient records and ventilators to tie their function directly to patient information .

“What I want to do for the ICU is what Steve Jobs did for the iPhone,” Provonost told STAT.