Hopkins, Lockheed partner to build safer ICUs

Safety issues in healthcare often are compared unfavorably to the solutions that the airline industry has adopted to minimize the chance of a plane crash. Now, a unit of Johns Hopkins University is collaborating with Lockheed Martin Corp., a global security technology firm, as well as an aerospace and defense contractor, to build a safer ICU.

Working with Lockheed, the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality of Johns Hopkins Medicine--headed by patient safety expert Peter Pronovost, MD, PhD--will try to improve the integration of the electronic systems used in ICUs.

"A hospital ICU contains 50 to 100 pieces of electronic equipment that may not communicate to one another nor work together effectively," Pronovost said in a press announcement.

Noting that the piecemeal approach to assembling such systems is inefficient and conducive to errors, Pronovost touted Lockheed's expertise for integrating complex systems, saying it could create a more efficient ICU model both at Johns Hopkins and "for patients around the world."

Among other things, the collaborative project will focus on improving the alerts used in ICUs. A single integrated system, for example, might be able to prioritize patient alarms based on an individual patient's risk of cardiac or respiratory events. That would reduce the chance that an alarm might be overlooked because of providers' "alert fatigue."

"Flight simulators and systems integration revolutionized the aerospace industry, and similar concepts can be applied to increase effectiveness and efficiency of the health care industry," Dr. Ray O. Johnson, Lockheed Martin senior vice president and chief technology officer, said in a statement. "Lockheed Martin's advanced computer-generated modeling and simulation will allow scientists to input ICU data to mimic possible outcomes of life-like scenarios. The software can also be used to train health care providers on newly engineered devices or processes, similar to the way pilots learn to respond to high-pressure scenarios."

Johns Hopkins also is inviting a Lockheed Martin official to serve on the board of the Armstrong Institute. Robert J. Szczerba, Lockheed Martin corporate director of healthcare innovation, "will provide guidance on how advanced technologies from the aerospace and defense industries can be used to improve patient safety and overall quality of care," according to the announcement.

Lockheed Martin provides health IT support services to several government agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Federal Occupational Health, the Social Security Administration, and the Departments of Defense and Veteran Affairs.

To learn more:
- read the press release
- check out this InformationWeek Healthcare article about Lockheed Martin

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