Johns Hopkins and Lockheed Team Up to Transform the ICU

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The airline industry has long been a paradigm example of safety, but it was not always that way. The transition occurred over the second half of the 20th century and was marked by rigorous equipment testing and procedures, such as the strict incorporation of checklists. Health care is an industry that recently has become quite interested in the possibility of implementing airline industry standards to improve patient safety and care delivery (read the books The Checklist Manifesto and Why Hospitals Should Fly if you'd like a solid overview of this phenomenon).

This month Lockheed Martin and Johns Hopkins, two institutional leaders in the fields of aviation and health care, respectively, announced a partnership to bring cutting-edge systems integration to the intensive care unit (ICU). According to the press release:

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 to one another nor work together effectively," says Peter Pronovost, M.D., Ph.D., 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, says, "When an airline needs 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 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 says.

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


This post also appears on medGadget, an Atlantic partner site.

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