Intensive care medicine deals with the treatment of patients with acute life-threatening illness or severe trauma. Starting in the 60’s with simple monitoring of some vital signs, it has now evolved into a separate, mature and high-technological medical discipline in which intensive monitoring and support is provided to different organ systems such as brain, heart, lungs, liver and kidneys, through a combination of pharmacological therapies and sophisticated medical devices. Intensive Care medicine, in treating the most sick patients of all the medical disciplines, has now an essential place in every health care system and on average 10% of all beds in hospitals are intensive care beds. Intensive care medicine is extremely expensive (0.5% up to 1% of GDP) and consumes a large fraction of the health care resources.
The deployment of “Information and communication technology (ICT)” in health care has become essential to improve the quality of care and efficiency. Furthermore, this use of ICT results in electronic data storage thereby making data easily accessible for research purposes. Intensive Care medicine is especially suitable for computerization because it is an extremely data-rich environment. The amount of data generated in the ICU is so overwhelming that it often leads to data-overload which can even result in information loss. More than 236 different variable categories are reported in one single medical ICU record and this far exceeds the human cognitive capacities. In recent years, several commercial companies developed “patient data management systems (PDMSs)” for the ICU. Each ICU patient has a dedicated bed-side PC client, interfacing being provided with all monitoring devices, ventilators and syringe pumps with automated data collection occurring every few minutes. Additional data are inputted manually. These systems also include “Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE)” and interfacing with the hospital information system, including the lab system, resulting in a database in which each patient generates between 10,000 and 20,000 data values on a daily basis.
The aim of this project is to create an interuniversity database containing high-quality and complexly interrelated data from all patients admitted to the intensive care units (ICU) of the university hospitals participating. Each of the 3 ICUs participating already has a fully operational commercial PDMS. Integrating these existing databases into one unique database may at first seem simple but is, in fact, a complex project. The added-value of a centralized ICU database is obvious: it would ensure better cooperation between the institutions, each institution contributing its own core research expertise to the consortium. It would also ensure more easily achieved critical patient cohorts (estimate of ± 9000 patients yearly), higher research quality, higher efficiency, increased research output with publications in higher ranked journals and a better positioning of the Flanders region in the world landscape.
The requested infrastructure, the interuniversity ICU database, is essential for fundamental research in the following areas of critical care medicine:
- epidemiological and clinical research
- knowledge discovery, data mining, machine learning and predictive modeling
- longitudinal data analysis and causality, (iv) translational research and (v) health economic research.
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