General Internist @ Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, Portland, Oregon
Condition: Most rapid-response alert systems—think beeps that send doctors rushing to a patient's room—react to just one vital sign, which makes it tough to monitor overall health.
Cure: New software can track pulse, blood pressure, breathing rate, and body temperature; analyze how they relate to one another; and alert doctors before a patient flatlines.
"We drew inspiration from the way engineers monitor airplanes. If the fuel line is bad but everything else works, the engine can probably make it through the flight. But if the fuel line is bad and the ignition is bad, it's all much likelier to fail. When you look at everything at the same time, it's easier to predict a problem. There have already been studies that show the program we're using [called the Modified Early Warning System] saves lives, and it's fairly easy to adopt. But we need more results to convince hospitals. If I can decrease mortality at St. Vincent's by 20%, that's saving 120 lives a year. I'm passionate about effecting that kind of change on a large scale. The thing about science, though, is that you can't move faster than your data."
A version of this article appeared in the April 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine.