In the Emergency Room, Computerized System May Speed Diagnosis of Serious Infections in Older Adults
Friday, January 9, 2009
Infections are a leading cause of illness among older adults. Infections can be particularly dangerous in older people in part because symptoms of infections often aren't as obvious in older adults as they are in younger people. This can make it harder for healthcare providers to diagnose infections -- and start treatment - early.
Many older adults go to hospital emergency rooms (ERs) for healthcare. And infections are among the most common, and serious, health problems among older ER patients. Unfortunately, the busy environment of the ER, among other things, can make it even harder for healthcare providers to recognize infections in older patients.
New Research in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
To improve the diagnosis of serious infections in older ER patients, university researchers recently developed a new approach and tested it on adults 70 and older who visited the university medical center's ER .
The researchers used a computerized system that they developed to continually monitor ER patients 70 and older for symptoms of infection -- such as increased heart rate and increased breathing rate. When they identified patients with two or more of these symptoms they then checked whether health problems other than infection might be the cause. This two-step approach enabled them to better identify older patients with serious infections, the researchers report.
The system could be used both to better diagnose potentially dangerous infections in older adults, and to identify older adults with infections who could participate in studies of infection among older people.
The summary above is from the full report titled, "Real-Time Identification of Serious Infection in Geriatric Patients By Clinical Information System Surveillance."It is in the January 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (Volume 57, Issue 1 ). The report is authored by William J. Meurer, MD, Barbara L. Smith, Eve D. Losman, Diana Sherman, Joseph D. Yaksich, Jeremy D. Jared, Preeti N. Malani, and John G. Younger.