Effective use of big data for neonatal care can enable early diagnosis and treatment of several medical conditions in newborn babies.
The first 28 days of life of infants is called the neonatal period. Newborn babies are vulnerable to many medical conditions either because of environment, genetics, or inheritance from their parents. These medical conditions can adversely affect infants due to their weak immune system, sometimes even leading to death. Children face the highest risk of deaths in the neonatal life period. According to a report by UNICEF, an average of 18 neonatal deaths occurred per 1,000 live births globally in 2018. The report said that approximately 7,000 infants died every day in the neonatal phase. Neonatal intensive care provides critical care for neonate infants. Similar to other healthcare domains that have benefited from the many use cases of big data, even neonatal intensive care uses big data to provide enhanced medical care and treatment. Neonates’ bodies try to adapt to their surrounding environment, and hence their response to environment changes frequently. And, doctors can utilize big data in neonatal care to make complex and real-time clinical decisions. These will enable them to handle the complications arising from neonates’ changing responses to the environment.
Benefits of Big Data in Neonatal Care
Although most of the organs are developed at birth, some of the organs like lungs and kidneys take a few months to be completely developed. The developing organs can be a risk as they can change quickly. And risks associated with immature organs are more in premature births. Medical practitioners need to keep a constant eye on the changes in the organs of infants. Constant monitoring gathers a massive volume of data that can become hard to process. But, with advanced technologies like big data, analyzing large amounts of data has become much simpler than ever.
How Big Data Can Help Neonatal Intensive Care Units
Hospital staff keeps a constant eye on infants in neonatal intensive care with the help of monitoring devices that track heart rate, blood pressure, the oxygen level in the blood, and other information about the functioning of organs. These monitoring devices display vital data of neonates on a second-by-second basis. Medical practitioners can analyze the data displayed by these devices to get useful information about neonates’ medical conditions.
It becomes difficult for doctors and nurses to keep an eye on every individual neonate as neonates outnumber hospital staff. Big data technology can help monitor the displayed data and analyze it in real-time to give alerts to medical staff if needed. For instance, a research team from a university in Canada has developed a system that, with the help of big data, can diagnose infections in neonates and assist doctors with clinical decision support. These system gathers data and compares it to other neonatal historical data present on the cloud. If there is any unusual behavior in the vitals of neonates, then alerts are sent to the medical staff through the system. The system uses machine learning algorithms for sending alerts to the medical staff. On receiving the alerts, doctors can take appropriate actions to provide better neonatal care to infants.
Big data can analyze data collected from various sources, but cannot make predictions from it. The effective use of big data analytics with other technologies will allow the predictive analysis of data. For instance, technologies like machine learning can make predictions based on data and help to diagnose long term problems like retinopathy of prematurity in neonates. Hence, it can be said that big data for neonatal care is very beneficial, but if used with other modern technologies, then it can prove to be a game-changer in neonatal care.
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