Researchers create new tech to diagnose pneumonia

Posted at 10:07 PM, Mar 24, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-25 00:07:27-04

MURRAY, Utah -- Researchers at Intermountain Medical Center have created a computer program that offers doctors a breakthrough in diagnosing pneumonia.

At Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, doctors and computers are working together to treat patients. Emergency Room Dr. Douglas Dillon said the new software is helpful.

“It really helps my job, helps to speed up and take care of patients too,” he said. “That’s really the big thing for us, doing the right thing for the patient, and this definitely helps.”

The computer program in question is designed to go through about 40 different indicators of pneumonia. If the program determines the patient has pneumonia, a “P” lights up on the tracking board to alert the physician. Dillon said the process helps them choose the best care for patients.

“When someone comes into the emergency department, and they’re diagnosed with pneumonia, it makes it easier for me to run a program and helps me to choose antibiotics to put them on and also whether they need to be put in the hospital or not,” he said. “Sometimes that can be a tricky decision.”

Dr. Peter Haug was an associate researcher on the study that led to the software, and he said the amount of information it can deliver in a short period of time is astounding.

“It actually gives an estimated chance of mortality for that patient based on a variety of criteria we have, and so that can be somewhat compelling if the patient’s survival may be impacted by their decision to go home,” he said.

The screening system looks at indicators from the lab and other places, like blood work, X-rays and respiratory levels. The system is not designed to replace a doctor’s diagnosis—it’s designed to make their job faster and easier while helping patients get the best care they can.

IHC plans to look at extending similar systems to different illnesses in the future.