December 19, 2011

JH collaborates with Lockheed Martin to build next-gen ICU

Systems integration, virtual simulation to guide study of health care setting

The Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality of Johns Hopkins Medicine is collaborating with the Lockheed Martin Corp., a global security and technology company, to create a safer and more efficient hospital intensive care unit model. The two organizations will work to streamline complex and fragmented clinical systems and processes to reduce medical errors and improve the quality of care for critically ill patients.

“A hospital ICU contains 50 to 100 pieces of electronic equipment that may not communicate [with] one another nor work together effectively,” said Peter Pronovost, Armstrong Institute director and senior vice president for patient safety and quality for Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Pronovost, who often contrasts the health care and aerospace industries, said, “When [airlines need] a new plane, they don’t individually select the controls systems, seats and other components, and then try to build it themselves.” The piecemeal approach by which hospitals currently assemble ICUs, he said, is inefficient and prone to error, adding risk to an already intricate environment.

“Lockheed Martin has the expertise to integrate complex systems to help us build a safer and more efficient ICU model, not just for Johns Hopkins but for patients around the world,” Pronovost said.

A single system that could prioritize patient alarms based on individual risk of cardiac or respiratory arrest, for example, could prevent “alarm fatigue,” a situation when clinicians sometimes are inundated with a chorus of competing alarms. This approach could help health care workers understand risks on a personal level based on each patient’s age, diagnosis and family history.

Ray O Johnson, Lockheed Martin senior vice president and chief technology officer, said, “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. Lockheed Martin’s advanced computer-generated modeling and simulation will allow scientists to input ICU data to mimic possible outcomes of lifelike 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,” he said.

Johns Hopkins researchers will test alternative approaches to ICU care in a learning laboratory with a virtual simulation theater, an engineering workshop and a testing area with manikins that imitate patient conditions and responses.

To further strengthen the relationship between the two organizations, Johns Hopkins has invited Lockheed Martin’s corporate director of health care innovation, Robert J. Szczerba, to serve on the advisory board of the Armstrong Institute. Szczerba 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.