A mobile phone app has been developed to inform doctors and nurses of patients with acute kidney injury, a potentially fatal condition.
It is essential that acute kidney injury is detected early and treated promptly, yet it usually takes hours for hospital staff to have access to blood test results that indicate the condition.
During a trial which assessed the app at London's Royal Free Hospital, doctors and nurses received warning signals via the app in an average of 14 minutes, and has been described as “potentially life-saving”.
The new alerting system, known as "Streams", sends results directly to front-line clinicians in the form of easy-to-read results and graphs. The system was developed by the Royal Free with technology firm DeepMind, and results are published in Nature Digital Medicine.
When speaking to the BBC, Mary Emerson, lead nurse specialist at the Royal Free, said:
"It's a huge change to be able to receive alerts about patients anywhere in the hospital."
"Healthcare is mobile and real time, and this is the first device that has enabled me to see results in a mobile real-time way."
She said it was the first system that "fits with the way we work".
Acute kidney injury account for around 100,000 deaths in the UK annually.
Clinical outcome data were collected from adults with acute kidney injury on emergency admission before and after deployment at the intervention site, and another not receiving the intervention.
Time to acute kidney injury recognition and treatment of nephrotoxicity improved significantly, yet there was no step change in renal recovery or any of the secondary outcomes (30-day survival, renal replacement therapy, renal or intensive care unit (ICU) admission, worsening AKI stage and length of stay).
Consultant Dr Sally Hamour, a kidney specialist at the Royal Free, told the BBC:
"We need to gather a lot more information about this technology and we need to look at it over a longer time frame."
"But it is certainly the case that some patients are very unwell, information comes to the correct team very quickly, and then we can put measures in place to try to make that patient safe and reverse the impact on their kidney function."
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Reference: Connell, A., et al. (2019). Evaluation of a digitally-enabled care pathway for acute kidney injury management in hospital emergency admissions. Nature Digital Medicine 2: 67