February 25, 2010
A multi-disciplinary team of Electrical, Computer and Biomedical Engineering seniors at Stevens Institute of Technology are finalists in the 2010 CIMIT Prize for Primary Healthcare Competition. Pete Backeris, dual major and team member, coordinated the BME and ECE teams to submit a proposal for the Digital Triage Assistant (DTA) project to the Center for Integration of Medicine & Innovative Technology (CIMIT) prize competition, which has resulted in an award of $10,000 to develop a final proposal along with the chance to win a grand prize of $150,000. The DTA team aims to modernize the triage process and streamline emergency room efficiency.
The DTA team: Cameron Abt; Glenn Shevach; Pete Backeris; Szymon Butryn; Raza Husain; Vaida Jakimaviciute; Malika Bhargava; Rosemary Garofalo; and Leticia Ennist, is advised by Professors Vikki Hazelwood and Bruce McNair. Their clinical advisor is Dr. Robin Stutman, a sub-specialist who works in ER's and helped identify an unmet need in the hospital triage process.
Defining the Problem
Triage is the process of prioritizing and sorting patients based on the severity of their condition and coordinating patient treatment efficiently when resources are insufficient for all to be treated immediately. Dr. Stutman led the team in active hospital visits where they identified that the triage process could be optimized. “We visited a wide range of hospitals in order to build an accurate picture of the triage process,” said Raza Husain. “Our trips, which included the Bellevue Hospital Center and VA Hospital in New York, gave us critical real world scenarios to plan for during development.”
When a patient enters a hospital waiting room, the triage process determines who gets seen by the medical staff first. Typically, this involves getting vital patient data such as heart rate; respiration rate; blood pressure; body temperature and peripheral oxygen saturation and more. Information must also be cross referenced with patient histories and verbal assessments. What the DTA team learned on these visits was that there was room for improvement and developing a method to streamline the process would be extremely beneficial for patients and the medical staff who treat them.
How did they do it?
Logistic challenges were among the initial issues that the DTA team had to solve. According to Rosemary Garofalo, “One of our priorities was establishing a set schedule that would allow us ample time to collaborate. These team meetings have made it possible not only to provide individual inputs on our own areas of expertise, but also to suggest alternate viewpoints and big-picture perspective while learning from each other.”
As the team began to collaborate on design, they then had to ask themselves questions such as: What are the costs and technology constraints? Who will contribute in what areas? What is the market need? Who can benefit from this and how do we see it being used?
The teams product solution is the development of a device that records vital signs and transmits them via Bluetooth, to a Personal Data Assistant that can interface with databases of patient history.
Primarily intended to benefit hospitals and emergency clinics, this research also has the potential to provide key advancements to existing ambulance technology, military or disaster situations and even to athletic events such as marathons, where volunteer medical tents are subject to extremely high volumes.
Detailed Analysis of Design
Preliminary concepts have been “bench tested” and proven successful . In practice a triage nurse or technician can automatically receive vital sign information at a workstation, view it, and print it for placement in the patient’s file. This information can also be displayed on terminals throughout rooms in the Emergency Department by scanning the patient’s wristband.
The DTA team makes this possible by combining Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) components with proprietary designs into a device capable of recording all five vital signs via a microcontroller-based acquisition device (DAQ) that communicates with a PDA through a Bluetooth serial connection. They have also developed a touchscreen-based Windows application that allows for an easy to read format. Finally, a wristband barcode system was integrated by using a scanner attached to the PDA to read barcode ID wristbands which are linked to a patient’s records in the hospital database.
Selection as a finalist in the 2010 CIMIT Primary Healthcare Contest is a significant achievement. In fact, only 10 teams from across the nation were selected to compete for the top spot. The DTA team at Stevens will be competing against universities such as Johns Hopkins, Cornell, MIT, University of Wisconsin Madison, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of California Berkeley and Northeastern in pursuit of a top prize of $150,000. Second and Third place receive $100,000 and $50,000, respectively.
Their final proposal must be submitted by May 31, 2010, and the winners will be announced on June 30th.
This monumental achievement for our students is a testament to Stevens’ innovative research and academic programs. Faculty such as Dr. Hazelwood and Dr. McNair ensure that students gain an intimate knowledge of pressing societal issues and enable academic progress to work hand in hand with research developments. Multi-disciplinary teams also teach students leadership and collaborative skills that will be critical in the professional workplace. As Cameron Abt says, “our academic backgrounds have gelled together and made the most of our individual abilities. This entire process has taught us the value of communication and the importance of viewing a challenge from every aspect.”
Congratulations to the Digital Triage Assistant Senior Design team, and good luck in the finals!