As a critical care physician, most of the patients Ognjen Gajic, M.D. sees are -- well, critical. And while "intensive care" is his specialty, as a researcher he is constantly trying to improve procedures, efficiency -- and both the cost and quality of that care. He has launched several studies to make sure the treatments, adjustments and medications received by patients in ICU are appropriate, timely and even more effective. Some of his computer-based initiatives focus on identifying or predicting problems much earlier (in the ICU a few hours can mean a lot) and then responding with treatment as soon as possible. Through specific checklists and computer algorithims he and his team are improving outcomes for such problems as acute lung injury and infections. Minnesota Public Radio featured his study of blood transfusions.
His work showed that many patients received unneeded transfusions. As reported Lorna Benson wrote, "Before the computer system, doctors frequently made the decision on whether to give a transfusion based on a patient's hemoglobin level, but the hemoglobin number isn't always the best indicator of whether a transfusion is really necessary." The result: better and more individualized care -- and a savings of $60,000 in 12 weeks. While this type of systems improvement is not new -- Dr. Henry Plummer and the Mayo brothers were doing it years ago -- it now has the added resources of 21st century IT. At this moment many are looking closely at Mayo because of our efficiencies in providing care and Dr. Gajic's work is a prime example of how research helps make those efficiencies possible.