2019 Digital Edge 50 Awards

Penn Medicine shortens ICU stays with real-time data

Leveraging real-time data streams from its EHR platform, Penn Medicine has created a dashboard and alerting system to speed the process of getting ICU patients breathing on their own.

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Many patients in hospital intensive care units (ICUs) depend upon a breathing machine for survival. Getting critically ill patients breathing on their own is an essential step towards getting them safely out of the ICU and freeing beds for other patients.

In an effort to shorten the amount of time patients spend on mechanical ventilation, the non-profit Penn Medicine(consisting of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pennsylvania Health System) has built a dashboard that leverages its electronic health record (EHR) vendor's real-time data streams to alert respiratory and nursing staff when interventions are needed and when patients may be ready to be weaned from ventilators. Penn Medicine has received a Digital Edge 50 Award for digital innovation for the project, dubbed the ABC application (for Awakening and Breathing Coordination).

"Many of the critically ill patients we take care of here in the ICU require a breathing machine to survive. That's a mechanical ventilator," says Dr. Barry Fuchs, medical director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit and Respiratory Care Department at Penn Medicine. "Although these ventilators save the lives of patients, they're associated with risks and complications. And the longer that patients remain on a breathing machine, the longer they stay in the ICU."

Longer stays in the ICU aren't just associated with risks and complications. They also drive up costs. Penn Medicine's ICUs serve just five percent of the patient population of the organization, but account for roughly 15 percent of the organization's costs, Fuchs explains.

The amount of time patients spend in the ICU is a key metric for Penn Medicine, and reducing it has been a goal for years. It's a metric that is very difficult to move the needle on, but benchmark data pinpointed an opportunity, Fuchs says.

"A few years ago, we learned that at Penn Medicine, patients stay on the ventilator longer than expected based on the benchmark data," Fuchs says. "So, we knew there was an opportunity to reduce the amount of time that patients stayed on the breathing machine. We knew that if we could solve this problem, it would improve both the care for the patient individually and reduce the costs in the ICU as well as hospital costs."

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