An infant with a fever can mean a lot of things, medically — most of them mundane, but a few of them deadly.
Children’s Mercy Hospital has teamed with a local tech company to develop a smartphone app that can help doctors and nurses spot the scary cases.
Russell McCulloh, an infectious disease specialist at the hospital, presented the CMPeDS: Pediatric Decision Support app to an international audience last week at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco.
“It basically puts in (the phone) ready access to all the rapid evaluation and treatment stuff you would want to have at your fingertips when you’re managing an infant or child with an acute or life-threatening illness,” McCulloh said.
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The app guides medical providers through a series of steps they should take when a child presents with a fever, such as what lab tests to order. It provides a risk assessment based on those labs, the child’s age, medical history and other factors. It then recommends next steps, like whether to administer antibiotics, perform a spinal tap or admit the patient to a hospital.
The idea is to weed out garden-variety fevers from those caused by things such as bacteremia, urinary tract infections and meningitis.
“Nine times out of 10, those kids are going to have a self-limited, noncomplicating course” of illness, McCulloh said. “It’s the one out of 10 that can result in permanent disability or death if you miss it.”
McCulloh said the app is similar to some developed for adult patients by a Kansas City team led by physician-entrepreneur Jeff Dunn through his company, Redivus.
McCulloh and other clinicians teamed with Engage Mobile Solutions, an information technology company in the River Market area, to develop the pediatric app. It went live in November as a free download, and McCulloh said more than 6,000 health care providers have gotten it so far.
There’s not enough data yet to determine whether it’s improved patient outcomes, but McCulloh and his team can tell that when users open the app, they tend to use it long enough to complete all the steps.
“We’ll learn a lot over the next six months, but what we’ve seen so far is really promising,” he said.
Matthew Barksdale, the president of Engage Mobile, said his company is working with Children’s Mercy on several projects that combine the medical expertise of the hospital with the health IT experience of his team.
“Each of us have very deep strengths within the health care space, and by working together, we can create something very special,” Barksdale said.
Funding for the CMPeDS project came from a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City Blue-KC Outcomes Research Grant administered by the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute. Additional grant funds came from the Kansas Health Foundation and the Courtney S. Turner Charitable Trust.
Keith Gary, vice president of the life sciences institute, said the app was “exactly the type of impactful project” the organization wants to help get off the ground.
He said he’s confident it will be sustainable going forward, possibly through grant funding from the National Institutes of Health.
“Just by reviewing the reports we’re getting back from the project, I would think this would be entirely fundable at a federal level,” Gary said.