I recently had the privilege of touring the Airbus final assembly line in Toulouse, France and had the opportunity to remind myself how complex, fascinating, and impressive it is to build an aircraft. There is nothing more exciting for an aerospace engineer than to see the product of millions of hours of development and manufacturing split between dozens of countries and see tens-of-thousands of parts come together into a marvel of human engineering that makes the world smaller. I had to reflect yet again how much I can learn and borrow from my previously chosen professional field and apply it to my current path of improving medicine through better use of data.

Focus on Human Factors

The picture above shows the assembly of an Airbus 330, one of the most common long-haul aircraft. All the elements on this aircraft have been designed to decrease flight risk, from the fly-by-wire system that restricts the pilot from making unsafe maneuvers to the assembly and maintenance procedures that guide the mechanics in repeatedly and robustly performing their tasks. To achieve high level of safety and quality, human factors have been central to the design process from conception to implementation.

Transforming Data into Actionable Information

Much like a patient in an ICU, this airplane will end-up with a lot of sensors (thousands in this case), each one of them measuring different critical aspects of the flight and the condition of the airplane. However, unlike in the ICU, this data will never be shown to the pilot or the maintenance crew in raw form; there will be computers that process and transform it into actionable information that is always delivered at the right time. Our philosophy as a company is to provide the same transformation of raw sensor data into meaningful insights in the ICU clinical workflow.

The Need of a Unifying Solution

Just as airline pilots rely on subsystems to present navigation, weather, and operating efficiency information, doctors and nurses need real-time access to ICU patient information to navigate treatment options and ensure patient safety. And just as Airbus relies on components from hundreds—or even thousands—of suppliers, ICU caregivers rely on information from medical devices and laboratory results from dozens of manufacturers—each with their own nomenclature.

Airbus and other aircraft manufacturers have solved the problem of unifying data from different vendors, but in most ICUs today doctors and nurses have to navigate through multiple monitors and reports to improve patient care. That’s because ICU devices generally produce data that is not meaningful outside of a device manufacturer’s technical environment. But helping a patient in the ICU is a life-critical endeavor, and caregivers need automated data aggregation and monitoring to make major improvements in ICU workflows.

Learning from Aircraft Manufacturers

ICUs should conceptually look more like the final assembly line at Airbus, where everything that matters fits together and serves a common purpose. The preservation of human life is at the core of both aviation and healthcare, but while aircraft manufacturers have generally succeeded in providing pilots with the information they need to ensure a safe flight, ICUs have fallen behind the technical advancements of the aircraft industry.

As Etiometry’s CTO, this trip made me think about how our Etiometry Platform has been developed similarly to how aircraft manufacturers developed cockpits to provide pilots with salient and timely information so they can make better and safer flight decisions. It unifies data from multiple manufacturers and systems, transforms that data into actionable information, and delivers data to the workflow in a way that is sensitive to human factors.

 

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