Specificity Improvement for Network Distributed Physiologic Alarms Based on a Simple Deterministic Reactive Intelligent Agent in the Critical Care Environment

  • James M. Blum
  • Grant H. Kruger
  • Kathryn L. Sanders
  • Jorge Gutierrez
  • Andrew L. Rosenberg


Automated physiologic alarms are available in most commercial physiologic monitors. However, due to the variability of data coming from the physiologic sensors describing the state of patients, false positive alarms frequently occur. Each alarm requires review and documentation, which consumes clinicians’ time, may reduce patient safety through ‘alert fatigue’ and makes automated physician paging infeasible. To address these issues a computerized architecture based on simple reactive intelligent agent technology has been developed and implemented in a live critical care unit to facilitate the investigation of deterministic algorithms for the improvement of the sensitivity and specificity of physiologic alarms. The initial proposed algorithm uses a combination of median filters and production rules to make decisions about what alarms to generate. The alarms are used to classify the state of patients and alerts can be easily viewed and distributed using standard network, SQL database and Internet technologies. To evaluate the proposed algorithm, a 28 day study was conducted in the University of Michigan Medical Center’s 14 bed Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit. Alarms generated by patient monitors, the intelligent agent and alerts documented on patient flow sheets were compared. Significant improvements in the specificity of the physiologic alarms based on systolic and mean blood pressure was found on average to be 99% and 88% respectively. Even through significant improvements were noted based on this algorithm much work still needs to be done to ensure the sensitivity of alarms and methods to handle spurious sensor data due to patient or sensor movement and other influences.


Patient monitor alarm intelligent agent 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • James M. Blum
    • 1
  • Grant H. Kruger
    • 2
  • Kathryn L. Sanders
    • 2
  • Jorge Gutierrez
    • 1
  • Andrew L. Rosenberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Anesthesiology and Critical CareThe University of Michigan Health SystemsAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of Mechanical EngineeringAnn ArborUSA

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