Featured Doctor: Anoop Rao
According to Dr. Anoop Rao, the relatively new field of anesthesia informatics, which integrates technological innovations into the perioperative environment, "is going to mushroom in the next couple of years."
"Sensors are becoming ubiquitous," Dr. Rao said. "Being able to decipher all this confusion that's really going to be a challenge."
As the first recipient of the Fellowship in Biomedical Informatics, a one- to two-year program in which fellows develop knowledge and experience in informatics to optimize patient quality and safety, Dr. Rao is working on a number of projects with the DACCPM biomedical informatics group.
Several faculty members are involved in this effort, including Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld, Dr. Paul Alfille, Dr. Julian Goldman, Dr. Nat Sims and Dr. Jeanine Wiener-Kronish.
In one project, Dr. Rao has prototyped a device that can capture Calstat® use prior to a patient encounter in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU).
"The motivation behind using the alcohol hand rub is that you can reduce infection rates," he said. "Other than actually observing CalStat use, there is no easier method to track this patient safety measure."
"Prototyping this device is the first step towards a good scalable way of electronically tracking compliance rates in our hospital," he said.
In another project, Dr. Rao is working on an alert application that will send updates to family members while a patient is in surgery.
"The technology is out there; it's just like a flight-tracking application for surgery," he said. "It would be lovely to have something like that, so that patients and loved ones can actually track what's going on."
He is currently preparing to test the prototype in the SICU while testing the feasibility of other projects.
Another current project relies on automated patient data collection prior to surgery.
"More than 50,000 patients undergo surgery at Mass General every year, and streamlining data collection for efficient clinical decision support is a formidable challenge," he said.
Dr. Rao completed his medical training in KMC Mangalore, India, and later completed a research fellowship at the All India Institute of Medical Studies before receiving his master's degree from MIT, where he studied in the Department of Biological Engineering.
After that, he focused on innovation and intellectual property and helped R&D teams of leading medical and surgical device companies, such as Ethicon Endosurgery and Guidant (now Boston Scientific).
More recently, he worked at a biosensor company called AgaMatrix that makes devices for patients with diabetes.
"It was a thrilling endeavor where I wore different hats and juggled between medicine and IP strategy. The collective team work and effort paid off, and we have now sold over one million devices worldwide," he said.
Additionally, in collaboration with the pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis, one of his patent-pending inventions, the iBGstar, was recently launched as a first medical device on the Apple iPhone® platform.
Dr. Rao applied for the Fellowship in Biomedical Informatics because he wanted to focus on medical innovations in the clinical environment. The available resources at Mass General allow for a fast turnaround time just months from problem to solution, he said.
"The tools that we have here allow you to generate and test hypotheses in a very quick way, because you have access to a lot of data," he said.
In addition, anesthesiologists can access data that offers a unique perspective into optimizing patient care across several disciplines, including general surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, and orthopedics.
"The OR environment at Mass General is unparalleled, and there is a lot of room for innovation," he said.
Dr. Rao praised the opportunities available through the fellowship and the potential for collaborating within Mass General and Longwood-area hospitals.
"People who have expertise in data mining and an inclination to solve medical problems within a clinical environment" should consider applying for the fellowship, he said.
Fellowship in Biomedical Informatics
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