By Dick Moberg
Fifteen years ago I started a company with the mission of making an impact on how brain injury patient care is managed. Given the complexity of the brain, it has been a time-intensive process, but with the advancement of technology, we are now making significant progress on that goal.
In the past 30 years there have been numerous multi-center trials evaluating new drugs and devices that hoped to improve the outcomes of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), however, most have been met with limited success. We now know that the outcome of TBI is dependent on a wide range of factors (prior injury, time to treatment, genetics, metabolic pathways, etc.) that are very specific to the victim. It makes it very difficult to test a treatment or drug in a population where you want to control all the variables except the one you are testing. Thus, the heterogeneity of the study population has led to many of these failures.
However, the motivation to continue this work was compelling: lives can be saved and we have a chance to reduce the emotional and financial burden to patients, families, and society. The cost to care for head injury patients alone is staggering: $76 billion per year according to the Centers for Disease Control. Ninety percent of that cost is associated with severe head injury patients.
The role of Moberg Research has been to develop a way to collect data from these patients as early in their treatment as possible. Head trauma patients generate tremendous volumes of data during intensive care, but most of that data is lost or inaccessible. Our system will collect, time synchronize, and standardize this data to form a very detailed, real-time, view of the patient. These larger, richer data sets can help us further define a similar population of patients such that the next generation of research studies might be more successful.
Getting the data into our system is only half the solution. Detailed insight that can help clinicians manage the patient has to be extracted in real-time through analysis, data mining, and cognitive computing. That is why we have partnered with IBM and are testing its advanced InfoSphere Streams technology, in combination with our products at the University Hospital Zurich. Under the direction of Dr. Emanuela Keller, the hospital has partnered with IBM Research Zurich and Moberg to create an integrated platform for patient monitoring and care.
The goal of our work is not to develop a single-site research system, but a commercial plug-and-play system that can easily be installed in any intensive care unit. To overcome the challenge of integrating this type of system with diverse medical devices and hospital environments, we are working with a consortium of groups in the U.S. and internationally so our system adheres to any existing standards, and in some cases, helps create the standards.
To showcase our work and demonstrate how we’re using IBM technology to create a global system for TBI treatment, yesterday we presented a simulated “Smart ICU” at the inaugural Smart America Expo in Washington, DC. The culmination of a competition that kicked off in late 2013 and organized by the White House, it brings together innovative technology projects seeking to address societal and economic challenges. Our hope is to create a global data collection and analysis system that can shed light on how to optimally manage an organ as complicated as the brain.