Big data meets health care on brain trauma

IBM, Excel Medical Electronics and the UCLA are testing a real-time alarm system to flag rising brain pressure among intensive care unit patients.

IBM, Excel Medical Electronics and the UCLA Department of Neurosurgery are experimenting with big data as a way to predict rising pressure in patients with traumatic brain injuries.

The use case highlights big data and how it can work in health care. Specifically, UCLA is testing a real-time alarm system concocted by IBM Research and Excel Medical Electronics that will stream vital signs, intracranial pressure, respiration and other items to attempt to predict trouble.

A look at the predictive alarm system to monitor brain trauma patients. Credit: IBM


Analytics and big data have multiple use cases within business, but healthcare may be the lead industry. First, the U.S. and other countries are trying to control expenses and information technology is seen as a key way to meet that goal. And then there are companies like GE and IBM, which is deploying its Watson based appliances in hospitals. In other words, healthcare is likely to be a key test bed for big data applications.

As for the UCLA study, the goal is to alert physicians and nurses to rising brain pressure. Typically, alarms go off when brain pressure has already crossed a key threshold and hospital staff has to determine if there's a real crisis or not. UCLA is deploying the real-time analysis system in the intensive care unit at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

UCLA’s Department of Neurosurgery was awarded a $1.2 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to study intracranial pressure and develop an alarm system. The UCLA study has gone on for eight years and now includes IBM and Excel Medical Electronics.

Specifically, the alarm system uses IBM InfoSphere Streams software and Excel Medical Electronics' BedMasterEX analytics application, which is used by 80 percent of the key medical centers in the U.S.