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How big data analytics helps hospitals stop a killer

Thor Olavsrud | July 20, 2015
Wireless biosensors and big data analytics can help hospitals identify patients showing signs of sepsis, the leading cause of death in noncoronary intensive care units in the U.S. They can even keep monitoring patients who have been discharged.

Enter big data

Here's where all those big data buzzwords come in. IT consulting and managed services provider Hitachi Consulting (a subsidiary of Hitachi) has joined forces with medical device maker Vital Connect and analytics specialist ClearStory Data to create a live clinical monitoring solution that can detect symptoms related to SIRS.

The prototype solution, showcased at the HIMSS15 Healthcare IT conference in April, consists of a disposable wireless Band-Aid-like biosensor (the FDA-certified HealthPatch), real-time processing of patient data using ClearStory Data's solution, and consumable analysis that allows medical professionals to take immediate action.

Vital Connect's HealthPatch, which is worn on the chest directly over the heart, is designed to monitor a patient's vital signs and track other information, including physical activity, posture, even falls. It connects wirelessly to a smartphone, when an app can show statistics such as steps taken, heart rate, breathing, skin temperature and more. It can be worn while a patient is awake, sleeping or even in the shower.

The smartphone app transmits the patient clinical data to a cloud-based repository, where it is mashed up with existing patient data from other data sources (NoSQL and SQL-based data sources, premium data sources, etc.). Caregivers can use ClearStory Data to analyze and correlate the data against systemic patterns to detect the potential of SIRS.

"These devices throw off data on heart rate, temperature, energy consumption, blood pressure, etc.," says Sharmila Mulligan, CEO and founder of ClearStory Data. "Even body posture. Your posture changes when you have sepsis; you start slowing down in how you walk. If the patient is actually showing that a couple of these attributes are starting to hit certain numbers, they are on their way to having a high-risk situation. Caregivers need to see this data in real-time."

ClearStory Data, powered by Apache Spark, provides fast-cycle, near real-time measurements on the massive volumes of biosensor data analyzed by algorithms modeled after clinical practice standards used in conventional human clinical monitoring disciplines. A patient "storyboard" identifies and alerts clinicians to patients who might be at risk based upon the biosensor measures. Serum level testing can then be used to confirm the presence of SIRS and/or sepsis.

Saving lives and cutting costs

U.S. states are beginning to take action in an effort to save lives and bring down the cost of healthcare. New York took the lead in 2013, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced a sweeping set of regulations that required hospitals to adopt evidence-based practices to bring down sepsis mortality rates.

The measures were prompted in part by the 2012 death of 12-year-old Rory Staunton, a sixth-grader from Queens, who died of severe septic shock following a cut received while playing basketball in gym class. Staunton was treated in the NYU Langone Medical Center emergency room then sent home. Vital signs taken at the hospital indicated several of the symptoms that could be used to diagnose sepsis, but caregivers failed to put the picture together. He died in an intensive care unit three days later.


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