Johns Hopkins, Microsoft to develop technology to improve patient safety in the ICU

Project will connect medical devices in effort to reduce preventable harm

Heart monitor and other medical devices in a hospital ICU

Credit: istock

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Microsoft have announced plans to work together to redesign the way medical devices in an intensive care unit talk to each other.

The two organizations plan to develop a health IT solution that collects data from different monitoring equipment and identifies key trends aimed at preventing injuries and complications that can result from medical care.

The idea stems from the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality's research on checklists to reduce infections and its pilot program called Project Emerge, which uses technology to restructure a hospital's workflow in an effort to eliminate the most common causes of preventable harm and promote better patient outcomes. While most efforts to improve safety focus on one harm, Project Emerge seeks to eliminate all harms, including medical complications such as blood clots and pneumonia, as well as emotional harms like a lack of respect and dignity.

"Today's intensive care patient room contains anywhere from 50 to 100 pieces of medical equipment developed by different manufacturers that rarely talk to one another," says Peter Pronovost, senior vice president of patient safety and quality for Johns Hopkins Medicine and director of the Armstrong Institute. "We are excited to collaborate with Microsoft to bring interoperability to these medical devices, to fully realize the benefits of technology and provide better care to our patients and their families. By combining teamwork with technology designed to meet patients' and clinicians' needs, we can make care safer, less expensive, and more joyful."

Four million patients are admitted to ICUs in the U.S. each year, and between 210,000 and 400,000 patients die annually from a potentially preventable complication, making medical errors the third leading cause of death, behind heart disease and cancer.

In collaboration with Microsoft, Johns Hopkins plans to revamp Project Emerge to better serve patients in intensive care environments. Johns Hopkins will supply the clinical expertise for the build, while Microsoft will provide advanced technologies, including Azure cloud platform and services, as well as software development expertise. Using Azure, the improved solution will collect and integrate information from several modern devices and provide critical analytics, computing, database, mobility, networking, storage, and Web functions. The final product will allow physicians to see trends in a patient's care in one centralized location and let them access critical patient information from any hospital-approved, Windows device. Pilot projects are estimated to begin in 2016.

"Johns Hopkins and Microsoft share a common vision of providing better care to more people," says Michael Robinson, vice president of U.S. health and life sciences at Microsoft. "Through our joint work, Johns Hopkins and Microsoft will empower health professionals with easy-to-consume, data-driven insights, allowing them to focus more on patients and less on technology and process."

This initiative is one of several collaborations between the two organizations designed to foster innovative, health-based technologies. Earlier this year, Microsoft became a sponsor of FastForward, Johns Hopkins' new business incubator designed to accelerate product development for health IT startup companies. Johns Hopkins also recently joined Microsoft's Partner Network, which provides enhanced services to the university.

"Collaborating with Microsoft on multiple fronts will provide mutually beneficial opportunities that can change the face of the health information technology landscape," says Christy Wyskiel, senior advisor to the president of The Johns Hopkins University and head of Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures. "I look forward to harnessing these opportunities and seeing many positive outcomes from our relationship."

The initial build of Project Emerge was funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The Armstrong Institute, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, and the University of California, San Francisco, collaborated on the project to develop and test the initial prototype.