Emory University Hospital is using software from IBM and Excel Medical Electronics (EME) in its intensive care unit (ICU) that will allow health care providers to analyze data in real time.

The technology applies powerful analytics to massive volumes of data while that data is “in motion,” according to representatives from IBM.

“Patient data in the ICU is constantly changing, and streaming analytics can provide insights to doctors and nurses in real time,” IBM representatives wrote in an email to the Wheel.

In traditional ICUs, data is generated in a continuous stream, yielding large volumes of information, according to Director of the Emory Center for Critical Care Timothy Buchman.

Although the stream is continuous, the process of analyzing the data is not. According to Buchman, the data must be stored and subsequently analyzed, in the hopes that the generated sample of data is representative.

Buchman said that continuous data streams create a paradox: detecting patterns and making decisions becomes increasingly difficult with greater amounts of data.

These large masses of data are overwhelming for health care providers, and have resulted in a rise of standardized practices that produce the greatest good for the greatest number of patients, Buchman said. This method, he said, does not necessarily yield the best outcome for each individual patient.

“We who care for patients are so deluged with data that we all too easily miss the forest for the trees,” Buchman wrote in an email to the Wheel.

Buchman wrote that use of the streaming analytics software was aimed at achieving better health, better care and lower costs.

“[These tools] are intended to ensure that we deliver the right care, right now, every time,” Buchman wrote in an email to the Wheel.

Buchman wrote that the people working hands-on with the patients are increasingly non-physician providers.

For this reason, he noted that these health care providers needed simpler tools that enabled safer and more efficient care.

In contrast, Buchman wrote, future generations of physicians would be assessed on their ability to manage large populations of patients.

Buchman wrote that the new streaming and analytic software would provide more reliable information about how patients are doing, earlier than ever before.

According to IBM representatives, predictive analytics in health care could allow for earlier clinical intervention, which could result in more effective and less expensive treatment.

IBM illustrated this point through the example of sepsis, a full-body inflammatory illness caused by severe infection.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, sepsis patients require close monitoring and treatment in a hospital ICU.

The Mayo Clinic website states that early and aggressive treatment can boost chances of surviving sepsis.

IBM representatives said the streaming analytics technology could aid in early identification of the illness, which could significantly improve outcomes.

“We believe that eventually, streaming analytics will be commonplace in medical institutions, and will allow doctors to provide predictive care to their patients,” IBM representatives wrote in the email. “It could be a transformative improvement in patient care.”

According to the IBM representatives, this new streaming analytics technology is being used at other medical institutions as well, including the University of California, Los Angeles’ Department of Neurosurgery and the  Columbia University Medical Center.

In addition, the technology is now being utilized to improve public transportation, speed up financial analysis and prevent the spread of forest fires, among the numerous other uses.

–By Harmeet Kaur