TDAI hosts Symbiotic Design Lab in Residence to improve healthcare system

Michael Rayo

TDAI faculty members Dr. Michael Rayo and Dr. Elisabeth Dowling Root, along with fellow principal investigator Courtney Hebert, MD., recently partnered with TDAI to launch a Lab in Residence centered around the healthcare system. The Lab uses both visual and computational analytics to improve symbiotic human-machine relationships and solve complex healthcare issues. The goal: Improve the detection rate of hospital acquired infections and patient decompensation, while also improving the overall design process.

Dr. Rayo is an assistant professor in Integrated Systems Engineering, Dr. Root is an associate professor in Geography and Public Health, and Dr. Hebert is an associate professor in Biomedical Informatics. Their transdisciplinary team includes researchers, analysts, physicians, nurses, developers and designers from the Colleges of Medicine, Arts and Sciences, Public Health and Engineering.

Talking about their roles in the study, Dr. Rayo notes, “My part in this is how to make the machines and people play nice together. Elisabeth brings in the more complex, geographic modeling and is the computational engine piece. Courtney is really focused on data and context. Because she is in the infectious disease area herself she can bring in the clinical folks. We have one student who is a full-time registered nurse, and another student who works part-time with this lab and is a resident physician.”

Located in TDAI Ideation Zone, Room 320A, the team is focused on finding even more ways to collaborate using resources like the visual analytics lab to run studies. “The geographic location of TDAI is perfect. It is halfway between the The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center (OSUWMC) and the Engineering College, and it’s such great collaborative space!” says Rayo. Drawing together diverse disciplines allows their team to better capture and address complex issues in a range of fields. In this case, their focus is symbiotic design between humans and machines in healthcare.

When asked what symbiotic design really entails, Rayo explains, “Symbiotic design is thinking about how we design these different analytic solutions so that they can act in a symbiotic relationship with their human counterparts.”

While understanding the difficulty that machines can be wrong sometimes, Rayo and his team seek to find a mutualistic relationship between humans and technology- meaning that at all times the team is looking for the machines to output information that is valuable to humans and their ultimate goals and activities. Large amounts of data from the Electronic Health Record and medical devices from the OSUWMC has been crucial to their discoveries, including one dataset that has been collecting data from 350 patient beds every two seconds for the last 14 months. These datasets are made possible through partnerships with the Chief Research Information Officer at the College of Medicine and multiple OSUWMC Information Technology groups, and has been funded internally by the Wexner Medical Center and externally by the Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality and the Air Force Research Laboratory.

When asked about the impact that the lab’s research could have on healthcare and the mutualistic relationship between machines and humans, Rayo said that healthcare professionals need to be able to understand if a machine is “fit” to make certain decisions at certain times, and that this ability “has to be the future.”

“It’s not the machine that’s making the decision by itself anymore, it’s not the person that’s making the decision by themselves anymore, it has to be a mesh of both together. We can’t afford to lose a patient because of a misunderstanding,” said Rayo.

Next steps? The team hopes to complete a significant amount of human studies (“fielding”) over the summer and are hopeful that their research can continue. As of right now, the Epidemiology department busy helping on the frontlines with the Covid-19 crisis.

The team is aiming to iterate through prototypes throughout the next three years. At the end of those three years, the team will develop all finished work and begin two years of follow-up, including an intense study of how their findings are being used in the Epidemiology department. The plan is to implement infection prevention software as early as later this year in OSUWMC, with hopes that other software products will also move successfully from the laboratory to the bedside.

“[Elisabeth, Courtney, and I] got this project knowing that we wanted to do things to further the research, but just as importantly, we wanted to help people right now. So, we want to continue to help people right now,” said Rayo. In addition to real-world impact, they want to use their Lab in Residence to share their findings with their TDAI and other colleagues. By bringing nurses, epidemiologists, and other infection-preventionists into their lab to try out the tools, they hope to accelerate insights on implementing analytics tools into hospitals.

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