Big data analytics may detect infection before clinicians

Artemis hunts for neonatal ills with big data

By , ITworld |  Big Data, Analytics, big data

The Artemis system collects the massive amount of data that's pulled in from all of the existing monitoring systems that a premature infant is usually connected to anyway. For McGregor, it was the presence of the monitoring systems that helped spark the idea for Artemis: a lot of data was being collected, and nothing was being done with it.

"Massive" and "a lot" deserve some qualifiers, so try this number on for size. McGregor said that currently the Artemis system pulls in 1,256 data points per second per patient. This is what's known in data circles as a fire hose, and this is truly a powerful fire hose.

Yet, for all the information coming through the network, McGregor emphasized, there's not a big footprint here that will bog a hospital's network down.

"These are thin footprints, and are less than one percent of network traffic in a hospital," McGregor said.

The project's use of IBM's InfoSphere streaming technology, has also smoothed out a lot of the real-time analysis issues, since this is right up InfoSphere's alley. Interestingly, this high-level processing capability allows the entire system to be processed not on big iron, but rather three laptops: one for data acquisition, another for online analysis, and the final machine for stream persistence. All of the data from the Toronto hospital is mirrored at UOIT.

The addition of the Rhode Island location for Artemis added some additional challenges, but was done not only to deliver more data for the project's algorithms to analyze, but also to demonstrate the proof of concept of the Artemis system as a cloud-based service. While the actual data is gathered in the U.S., it's processed in Canada before being sent back in a more visual form back in Rhode Island.

Since Artemis is still proceeding as a scientific study, it's too early to report on the success rate of the system. But McGregor was pleased to see one thing come from the implementation of the study: it seems to dispel the notion that clinicians aren't interested in such systems.

"They recognize that this is a powerful clinical decision support tool," McGregor said.

McGregor is also excited about what projects like Artemis, both as monitoring and cloud-based tools, might mean for medical diagnostics. Late-stage, at-risk pregnancies could be monitored remotely (albeit as a slower data rate), thus alleviating the need (and cost) of in-hospital monitoring, she outlined.

Leukemia patients, who also are burdened with compromised immune systems, could also be remotely watched. "We could be looking for infections and catching them a lot sooner," McGregor said.

The potential benefits are high, and McGregor and her team are working hard to work out any technological, procedural, and legal kinks in the Artemis system to help maximize those benefits.

Big data, it seems, may be helping to save a lot of little lives.

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