Public Release: 

NSF funds Clemson research of mobile technology for perioperative services

Clemson University

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Three Clemson University professors have received $797,066 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to investigate how the use of mobile technology can improve coordination in perioperative services.

The care provided by perioperative services is given before, during and after surgery, and takes place in three main areas -- pre-op, the operating room and post-anesthesia care.

The Clemson faculty are principal investigator Kevin Taaffe and co-investigators Joel Greenstein, both professors in the industrial engineering department, and Larry Fredendall, a professor of management in the College of Business and Behavioral Science.

The team will share research findings with Health Sciences South Carolina and the S.C. Hospital Association. Their work also will be used in health care-training simulations to improve coordination among staff.

The Clemson researchers are part of a statewide team that includes two faculty at the University of South Carolina. The total NSF award for the two universities is $1.4 million.

The researchers will use artificial intelligence and data analytics to improve coordination in perioperative services at three hospitals: Greenville Memorial Hospital, Palmetto Health Richland in the Columbia area and the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

Taaffe will coordinate research across the two universities, the three hospital systems and other state-level institutions.

The collaboration will provide expertise in operations research, data mining, computer science, simulation, human-computer interaction and quality and process management.

Taaffe said one of the largest national concerns in the U.S. is the escalating cost of health care. This research is aimed, in part, at helping develop a more efficient system.

"As a nation, we must find ways to reduce health care costs without sacrificing quality of care," Taaffe said. "There are many interrelated services medical staff provide, and our role as researchers is to present options in real-time to these care providers."

Each patient's day of surgery can be short or lengthy, depending on the nature of the procedure. Patients and staff must interact with many individuals across each of the departments within perioperative services.

Ensuring that the care quality remains high while providing efficient patient flow requires the medical staff to make informed decisions by prioritizing tasks. This will be a key focus area of the research, Taaffe said.

As part of the research, a "smart app" will be developed to assist data gathering to create an artificial intelligence that runs mobile applications in hospitals.

Greenstein said one of the challenges of the project will be to deliver these technologies in a form that is accepted by medical staff in their day-to-day work.

"The smart app cannot distract staff from their focus on patient care," Greenstein said. "The information we display must be easy to understand and act upon."

The project proposes to create a framework using a combination of mobile technology, learning systems, data analytics, education and training. The end game is to enhance cooperation and coordination between staff within and across perioperative departments.

Fredendall said that while existing information technology, such as natural language processing, artificial intelligence and speech recognition, are promising developments in computing, their uses in health care are limited.

"This area requires thorough investigation before it can be used effectively and efficiently in health care environments," he said.

In addition, the smart app and simulation model will provide the team with teaching and training tools that can be used in classrooms at Clemson to teach students information and workflow management techniques across a variety of fields, including business, engineering, science and health care.


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