Collaboration Between School of Medicine and Microsoft

Published in Dome - December 2015

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Microsoft will work together to redesign the way that medical devices in an intensive care unit (ICU) talk to each other.

The two organizations plan to develop a health IT solution that collects data from different monitoring equipment and identifies key trends aimed at preventing injuries and complications that can result from medical care. Pilot projects are expected to begin next year.

The idea stems from the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality’s research on checklists to reduce infections and its pilot program called Project Emerge. First piloted in The Johns Hopkins Hospital’s surgical intensive care unit in June 2014, and now replicated at the University of California, San Francisco, the program uses technology to restructure a hospital’s workflow in an effort to eliminate the most common causes of preventable harm and to promote better patient outcomes. While most efforts to improve safety focus on one harm, such as preventing central line-associated bloodstream infections, Project Emerge seeks to eliminate all physical harms, including medical complications, such as blood clots and pneumonia, as well as such emotional harm as lack of respect and loss of dignity.

“Today’s intensive care patient room contains anywhere from 50 to 100 pieces of medical equipment developed by different manufacturers that rarely talk to one another,” says Peter Pronovost, senior vice president of patient safety and quality for Johns Hopkins Medicine and director of the Armstrong Institute. “We are excited to collaborate with Microsoft to bring interoperability to these medical devices, to fully realize the benefits of technology, and to provide better care to our patients and their families.”

Four million patients are admitted to ICUs in the United States each year. Although it is not known how many of these patients experience potentially preventable complications, between 210,000 and 400,000 hospital patients die annually from such harms. Medical errors are the third leading cause of death, behind heart disease and cancer.

In collaboration with Microsoft, Johns Hopkins plans to revamp Project Emerge to better serve patients in intensive care environments. Johns Hopkins will supply the clinical expertise for the build, while Microsoft will provide advanced technologies, including Azure cloud platform and services, as well as software development expertise. The final product will allow physicians to see trends in patients’ care in one centralized location, allowing them to access critical information from any hospital-approved Windows device.

This initiative is one of several collaborations between the two organizations designed to foster innovative, health-based technologies. Earlier this year, Microsoft became a sponsor of FastForward, Johns Hopkins’ new business incubator designed to accelerate product development for health IT startup companies. Johns Hopkins also recently joined Microsoft’s Partner Network, which provides enhanced services to the university.