DataSystems Aims To Conquer
Intensive Care “Information Overload”
Drummond has been watching the evolution of intensive care
medicine since she first became a doctor in the late 1960s,
and with the advent of each new monitor, she has seen doctors
and nurses struggle with “information overload.”
“It was fine when all we had to track was the heart
rate and the oxygen levels,” says Drummond, a neonatal
specialist, “but when the machines are tracking 80 different
parameters, keeping up with the information is very difficult.”
Health care has grown up without industry standards for coding
data, so few of the monitoring devices talk to each other,
or even store the data they collect in a recognizable way.
The result is that nurses spend an estimated five hours out
of every 24 transcribing numbers off the machines’ displays
onto paper flow charts that fold out to four feet in length.
A file of these charts for one premature infant can be two
feet thick before the baby is discharged.
(left), ICU DataSystems president, Becky Roys, a nurse
specilist with the company, and Willa Drummond with the
voluminous, labor-intensive paper recordkeeping system
most hospitals, including Shands at UF, use to record
monitor data in their intensive care units.
addition to the many different software codes, individual
hospitals, laboratories and insurance companies have developed
their own coding systems for treatments, lab tests and prescriptions.
For example, Shands at UF has more than 11,000 of its own
Drummond, a professor of medicine specializing in neonatology,
says it has been “a dream, the Holy Grail” since
the earliest monitors came on the market to capture their
data on a computer and integrate it.
Now, Drummond and her colleagues at ICU DataSystems are on
the verge of achieving that elusive goal. The company, which
licensed computer technology developed by Drummond and others
at the University of Florida, recently released its first
fully functional system for distilling dozens of types of
clinical information about a patient into an automated, easy-to-read
and easy-to-understand database.
The system, called iCURO, currently captures data coming from
more than 20 popular monitors and assistive devices like ventilators
and routes it all to a computer that converts the many different
kinds of software code used in the devices into a common language.
“iCURO provides a better overview of many variables
at the same time,” Drummond says. “It makes it
much easier to figure out what to do next.”
ICU DataSystems President Chris Carnes adds, “Without
a system like iCURO, many critical pieces of information can
be overlooked when emergencies compete for a caregiver’s
From a user standpoint, the results are elegant in their simplicity.
Instead of manually recording data on a flowchart hourly,
doctors and nurses can track a patient’s progress by
the minute on a touch-screen monitor that can hold up to 18
separate graphic displays simultaneously.
Eliminating the need for nurses to manually transcribe monitor
data will not only save hours of tedious work every day, but
will also eliminate the inevitable errors inherent in such
“Up to 50 percent of the critical care workday is devoted
to recording and maintaining paper-based patient records,”
says ICU DataSystems CEO Samuel Coons. “iCURO allows
these highly paid, skilled workers to focus on patient care,
which will translate into better outcomes and fewer medical
Medical research will also benefit from the system, Carnes
says, because researchers will be able to use the patient
data to more effectively track how a particular treatment
or drug performs.
“Data written on flowsheets cannot be reformatted for
graphic inspection or used for research purposes without retyping
it into a computer,” says Carnes, a former UF computer
science professor. “Reentering the data into a computer
by typing is extremely time consuming and can require hundreds
to thousands of person hours, even for relatively simple clinical
studies, quality assurance reports or research projects.”
Carnes says market response to the iCURO system has been encouraging.
He calls the 26th Annual Management of the Tiny Baby Conference
in Orlando, Fla., last February the company’s “coming
out party,” and says the response among the hundreds
of doctors and neonatal intensive care nurses at the conference
was extremely positive.
Drummond credits ICU DataSystems’ participation in the
Gainesville Technology Enterprise Center (GTEC) with providing
the company resources and expertise that have allowed it to
concentrate on building iCURO. The company shares leased space
in a 30,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art building with similar
An economic development program of the City of Gainesville,
GTEC is a partnership between the City of Gainesville, Alachua
County and the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
Through a comprehensive program consisting of incubation,
education, networking and mentoring, GTEC management staff
and a board of advisors provide basic business assistance
to tenants on an ongoing basis.
ICU DataSystems has also received more than $750,000 in funding
from the National Medical Technology Testbed, or NMTB, program.
NMTB’s objective is to develop a comprehensive suite
of technologies that can improve military and civilian health-care
“This program has funded us very well over the last
three years because our technology has potential military
value,” Drummond says. “The idea of this funding
was to get some new companies going in the directions that
the military needed, where there were no obvious ‘players’
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by Joseph Kays