New IIC Testbed Delves Into Medical Device Interoperability

The project supports efforts to establish connectivity between medical devices in order to reduce accidental death or injury due to medical errors.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Apr 20, 2016

According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Patient Safety, 440,000 deaths each year can be traced back to preventable medical errors. If the U.S. government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took these metrics into account, medical errors would be the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer. Julian Goldman, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and a co-leader of the health-care task group for the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), a member-led organization that is helping to accelerate the deployment of networked sensor-based technology in the industrial sector, hopes to change that.

Toward that end, the Massachusetts General Hospital Medical Device Plug-and-Play (MD PnP) Lab, a research center that Goldman established in 2004 to help improve patient safety through device interoperability, is partnering with global systems integration firm Infosys, middleware provider Real-Time Innovations (RTI) and manufacturing software developer PTC to run the Connected Care Testbed through the IIC.

Julian Goldman
"We want to make it harder for mistakes to be made," Goldman says, adding that medical errors are defined as any preventable adverse effect of care. These mistakes often occur because medical devices, such as infusion pumps and heart and blood pressure monitors, operate in silos, which can lead to failures to respond to a crisis.

Say, for example, that a nurse receives multiple alarms throughout the day that a given patient is suffering from low blood-oxygen saturation, but each time he goes to the room to respond to the alarm, he finds that the patient is holding a phone or trying to reposition himself in bed, which is causing the finger-clamp pulse oximeter to dislodge. Eventually, the nurse becomes fatigued and does not respond as quickly to the next alarm from the blood-oxygen monitor.

However, the next time the alarm is triggered, it mignt be because the patient's family member, concerned that he was in pain while trying to sleep, had accidentally overdosed him by pressing his morphine pump—either because she wanted to decrease his pain or because she mistook the device for the nurse call button. If the blood-oxygen monitor were linked to the morphine pump and other medical devices used to monitor patient well-being, the alarm system could offer the medical staff a more complete view of what is happening inside the patient's room, and how much danger that person is in.

Medical device makers and the software platforms that medical staffers use to monitor patients, Goldman says, have "not done a good job of data fusion, so alarms happen when they don't need to."

To build more intelligence and situation awareness into alarm systems, and to enable interoperability between medical devices, the MD PnP Lab is developing a cloud-based open-source data-communications platform called Integrated Clinical Environment (ICE). ICE has been developed as an ASTM standards-based framework for integrating medical devices, the data they generate and health-care IT systems. The goal of the testbed, which will take place both in the MD PnP Lab (using devices utilized in clinical settings) and within a residence (using home health-care equipment), is to bring the ICE platform closer to deployment by assembling the types of technologies and expertise required to ensure proper data collection from disparate devices not designed to work together.

Infosys is leading the testbed, working with RTI to apply its middleware, and with PTC to use its ThingWorx application platform to run on the ICE platform, which will provide data modeling to enable a user interface for medical personnel or users of home health-care systems that will integrate information from multiple devices.

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