Sometimes, it’s the algorithm that knows best.
Dr. Michael Kinsky, a professor in UTMB’s Department of Anesthesiology, has developed a device that can monitor a patient’s oxygen levels and alert medical staff when levels drop and the patient is at risk for pulmonary distress.
Kinsky developed the device, called the Smart-Oxygenation-System or SOS, as part of a larger body of work, funded by the Department of Defense, looking into creating smart or autonomous systems to help care for patients.
“Medicine is still far behind other industries in adopting and using smart systems,” Kinsky said.
Kinsky said an example of a smart system could be something such as a thermostat in a house. When the temperature outside goes down, the thermostat kicks on the heat and then shuts off when the house reaches a designated temperature. Likewise, when oxygen in the body is low, the system increases the amount of oxygen to the body, Kinsky said.
“It is the amount of oxygen or the rate of increase that we look at, which determines how sick the lungs are,” he said.
There are already systems that can measure the amount of oxygen in a patient’s blood. Ideally, blood should be 99 to 100 percent saturated with oxygen. If it dips below 92 percent, an oxygen control system using a ventilator can kick on and bring the saturation level back up, Kinsky said.
Similar devices are available to monitor and respond to blood pressure and IV fluids. Kinsky, along with Dr. George Kramer, director of the Resuscitation Research Laboratory in the Department of Anesthesiology, have been working on these types of systems for the past 15 years. A few years ago, he worked on an IV system that could monitor and provide needed fluids for a patient until the patient was back to normal.
The various military branches are interested in these types of autonomous care, Kinsky said. These systems reduce the number of personnel needed to treat each patient and patient health does better with these systems.
“You don’t need a clinician or responder dialing a nob to make sure a patient is getting the right amount of oxygen,” Kinsky said. “They could be somewhere else saving lives.”
The new SOS device will build upon already-in-use autonomous oxygen systems. It is designed to monitor how much oxygen is being provided to a patient and can alert medical personnel when that amount crosses a certain threshold.
“The system can actually improve lung function and care by reducing the reaction time to a bad situation,” Kinsky said. He added that the device can be much more effective and efficacious than current monitoring practices and could lead to more efficient use of oxygen and better outcomes for patients.
The SOS device still needs further testing and development—Kinsky is in the process of applying for a Department of Defense grant to finish that work.
“These types of systems can be of great help to military and civilian medicine,” Kinsky said. “They can free up doctors and nurses to care for other patients and can even let doctors monitor their patients remotely on devices such as their phone.”