New collaboration to help patients at risk of admission to intensive care

A new collaboration bringing together researchers and clinicians from Oxford and Portsmouth has been awarded £1.8m of funding to develop a new electronic system designed to recognise deteriorating patients in hospitals.

The award has been made by the Health Innovation Challenge Fund. This is a parallel funding partnership between the Wellcome Trust and the Department of Health to stimulate the creation of innovative healthcare products, technologies and interventions and to facilitate their development for the benefit of patients in the NHS and beyond.

The amount of data and information gathered about patients during even routine screening and diagnostics processes is increasing rapidly as new technologies become available and greater computing power enables more data to be captured and stored quickly and inexpensively. The Health Innovation Challenge Fund has attracted proposals that will harness the potential of this data and make it clinically accessible and useful.

Professor Lionel Tarassenko, Head of University of Oxford Department of Engineering Science said: We see the new system as a major step towards the ‘digital hospital’ in which all sources of patient information are interlinked and all healthcare staff are interconnected. This can only have a positive impact on patient safety”.

Much needed new approach

The collaboration combines expertise and resources from the NHS and academic institutions to come up with a much needed new approach to identifying patients at risk of needing intensive care during their hospital stay. The current process relies on nurses recognising ‘out of range’ values for the vital signs (including blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature) which are measured regularly on the wards. This new approach will allow other values, such as blood test results or previous medical history, to be included in the assessment. This will create a better overall ‘picture’ of the patient. Previous work has shown that specific ‘at risk’ patients, such as those who have had recent abdominal surgery, can be identified up to 24 hours earlier using this method. The new challenge is to develop a system which will work across all patients admitted to hospital.

Dr Duncan Young, NHS Consultant (Anaesthetics & Intensive Care) said: At the moment, hospital patient information is reviewed on average every four to six hours and is limited to vital signs such as heart rate and temperature. This new system will include other hospital information such as blood test results and will update every time new information is received. Using this system will make it quicker and easier to identify patients who might need specialist treatment than is currently possible”.


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