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Anticipating a need

Doctor and nurse create app to help predict emergency room flow


By Rebecca Rebeiro

A doctor and nurse have developed an app to help anticipate demand for care in emergency departments.

Over the past couple years, the Faculty of Medicine’s Dr. Chris Patey and Paul Norman, a registered nurse, have been working on a method to improve patient care in the emergency department at the Carbonear Hospital.

A male nurse standing in front of a transparent white board smiling
Paul Norman stands in front of the analog version of SurgeCon.
Photo: Submitted

“We were working in an environment, like many other emergency services across the province, where there is an ever-increasing volume of patients, and as the population gets older the complexity of those patient’s illness gets more complicated,” said Mr. Norman.

“So, we started to think about ways to deliver care differently and challenge existing ideas.”

The duo decided to create a platform to help predict volume in the department. They recorded patient surges, the peaks and lows in real time, assigned them a value and made decisions based on that data.

“We think SurgeCon will be a useful tool for small hospitals to help improve patient care.” — Dr. Chris Patey

At first they used an analog method, but soon realized the process could be automated.

This led to the development of SurgeCon. The app’s algorithm helps increase staffing efficiencies by ensuring there are enough health-care professionals to accommodate busy periods.

“While there are similar systems available in larger hospitals who have specialized computer systems, like in Toronto, those systems don’t adapt in other emergency departments, especially those in rural areas with different infrastructures,” said Dr. Patey, who is a clinical assistant professor with the Disciplines of Emergency Medicine and Family Medicine.

“We think SurgeCon will be a useful tool for small hospitals to help improve patient care.”

Next wave in emergency health care

After a positive initial testing phase, the team received a $100,000 grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to fine-tune the app for re-deployment at Carbonear Hospital.

Next, Dr. Patey and Mr. Norman will collaborate with Eastern Health to further develop SurgeCon, with the hope of piloting the app across regional health authorities over the next year.

“Emergency health care hasn’t had much innovation, as it’s a complicated space, but we see this app as a starting off point,” said Dr. Patey. “We have a lot more ideas that we’d like to pursue.”

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