As a patient recovers in hospital after surgery, she’s hooked to a raft of machines by the bed monitoring heart rates, oxygen levels, breathing rhythms and more. Together, those monitors provide a real-time snapshot of a person’s vitals, but that data is typically not mined for later use.
A spinout from Harvard University wants to change that, and is commercializing a technology that records such data for researchers or clinicians to use later, the university announced this week.
Motivating the research is the idea that gathering a complete set of data points can provide new insights, beyond the spot checks that doctors or nurses make as they do their rounds. Knowing a patient’s blood pressure, or breathing patterns, through the entire course of treatment provides a more comprehensive record of their condition or pace of recovery.
“All sorts of instruments are connected to patients and a lot of that data does not go anywhere. Once it disappears off that screen it’s typically gone,” said John Osborne, a researcher at the Wyss Institute at Harvard, who launched a company called MediCollector last year and will license the technology.
Eventually, researchers and clinicians could eventually train the software to flag patterns in the data, Osborne said.
The technology grew out of Wyss’s infant sleep monitoring project, a cross-institute endeavor including researchers from the Wyss and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Aiming to detect and prevent sleep disorders that affect premature babies, that team found that they can predict when an episode of sleep apnea would strike by recording long-term breathing data.
Osborne worked on that project, and with MediCollector hopes to create a product that extends the concept beyond a single condition. This version of the software can be tailor-made for a researchers who may want to track other biological indicators, like blood pressure or heart rate.
“Many vital signs are collected today through electronic monitoring, but most such data are not yet saved by hospitals, which represents a major missed opportunity because the data could be used for multiple purposes,” Dr. David Bates, chief innovation officer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital said in an email.
MediCollector’s first customer is the Israeli startup NanoVation–GS, which is using the software to test the efficacy of new respiration sensors. A version of the software continues to be used by the sleep research team at the Wyss.
This article was updated to include a comment from Dr. David Bates of Brigham and Women’s Hospital.