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New Health Forecasting Tool For Preemies

Doctors at Stanford have developed a new system for predicting health problems in preemies. Called PhysiScore, their system monitors newborn infants breathing, heart rate, and blood oxygen levels.

PhysiScore helps doctors identify problems with preemie babies right at the beginning. In some cases, the new test let doctors predict health problems before they started.

Best of all, this test is completely non-invasive. There’s no expensive machinery, no injections, no complex procedures. They use a simple electronic monitor to analyze basic vital signs.

Not only do Standford’s researchers hope the new test will be a boon to parents and babies, they also hope it will save hospitals money. Big money. The cost of caring for preemies in the U.S. currently runs at $26 billion a year. Shaving even a fraction of that cost off will help hospitals put more resources where they are most needed.

The PhysiScore test will function like an Apgar test, but with better accuracy:

The researchers relied on data recorded during the first three hours after an infant’s birth as part of a computer algorithm that  predicted the baby’s likelihood of developing serious illnesses with an accuracy of between 91 and 98 percent. By comparison, the  success of Apgar score predictions for the same conditions ranged from 69 to 74 percent.

The doctors say the hardware already exists; it’s essentially the stuff they use for fetal monitoring during labor and delivery. They simply need to add software that would display the PhysiScore analysis.

There’s pretty much no downside to this: you get better medical results, more efficient healthcare for the sickest babies, and there’s no need for yet another machine that goes bing chiming in as you give birth. Some days I just love science.

Photo: tiarescott

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