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School of Nursing research team receives research grant to benefit intensive care patients

A research team led by faculty at the School of Nursing received a 2022 American Association of Critical Care Nurses Impact Research Grant in the amount of $49,171 to study new methods of preventing pressure injuries in intensive care unit patients. The study will use data science and predictive analytics to improve in-hospital risk assessment procedures.

The team is led by Associate Professor Jenny Alderden and includes Lucy Zhao of Boise State University, Andy Wilson of the University of Utah, Susan Kennerly of East Carolina University, and Tracey Yap of Duke University.

Their research will use machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze existing healthcare records and identify intensive care patients at the highest risk for pressure injuries, also called “pressure ulcers” or “bed sores.” The work builds on a previous grant Alderden earned from the association.

Documentation of patient data might take up to 25% of a nurse’s shift, with up to 300 data points to record per patient in the intensive care unit. Nurses collect and store this data in an electronic health record system. In some cases, nurses will use artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze that data and assess patients for potential risks and complications.

“With existing machine learning techniques, we feed in the data, and then the algorithm will tell us a degree of risk. The problem is that these techniques tend to be a black box; you can’t look inside to see how it works,” Alderden said. “Some newer approaches use explainable artificial intelligence that allows you to take a peek under the hood, and that’s very useful. The truth is that clinicians will not use these risk assessment models for clinical decision making unless the models are transparent.”

The primary objective of the study is to modernize and improve hospital-acquired pressure injury risk assessment…using machine learning augmented by human expert knowledge. In addition to addressing pressure injury risk assessment, their work will also help reduce the amount of time nurses spend documenting patient data, allowing nurses more time to take care of patients.