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UVA's Early Warning System for COVID Patients


One big problem for COVID patients is the tendency of the disease to get worse after a period of recovery.  That often catches doctors and nurses by surprise and makes well-planned treatment impossible.  Now, the University of Virginia reports a new way to predict problems before they occur.

In the intensive care unit at UVA’s medical center, machines monitor the heart function, breathing, blood Oxygen and other vital signs of COVID patients. Cardiologist Randall Moorman has developed artificial intelligence software that constantly analyzes those numbers to provide an early warning of problems. The system is called CoMET – short for Continuous Monitoring of Event Trajectories.

“COVID-19 has a way of making people deteriorate suddenly and drastically," Moorman explains.   “Small drops in the blood pressure, small increases in the heart rate, small changes in the temperature – these early phases if you can detect them – can let you know that someone is getting sick and let you get in earlier and do better.”

The heads-up is signaled by a graphic – a comet that is yellow when everything is going well but orange or red if deterioration is imminent.  Nurse Jessica Keim-Malpass, who has partnered with Moorman on development of the system, says it’s great to quickly see trouble coming rather than relying on another alarm.

“There’s a rapid influx of alarms and alerts coming at nurses and physicians constantly during the day.”

Knowing a patient may be heading for trouble allows her to plan better and choose the best approach to preventing deterioration. 

“It might be drawing laboratory tests or blood cultures or consulting with the physician," she says. "I would much rather get them the help they need and give them a breathing tube earlier so it can be a safer procedure, I can have more time to have the specialists I need as opposed to a rapidly crashing scenario.” 

Conversely, tracking and analysis with CoMET can support a decision to move someone out of intensive care or to send them home. Moorman developed this technology over 20 years, finding that after surgery patients were 50% less likely to develop sepsis – a deadly complication, it they were monitored in this way

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief