Saving tiny lives

Saving tiny lives

Cutting-edge software promises to enhance neonatal care, giving premature babies a better chance at life and reducing health-care costs
March 23, 2012

One in 14 mothers in Canada gives birth prematurely ― at less than 37 weeks of gestation ― and this rate is on the rise. These early births are responsible for 75 percent of all infant deaths in the country. Along with the undeniable emotional toll on parents is a strain on our public health system: caring for preterm babies in Canada costs more than $2 billion a year.

Carolyn McGregor, Canada Research Chair in Health Informatics at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, Ont., has developed software, called Artemis, that could save babies’ lives and shorten their hospital stays, thereby reducing health-care costs. McGregor is leading the Artemis  Project, which is about to undergo clinical trials, with partners IBM Canada, The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and hospitals around the world. Artemis makes sense of reams of data collected from critically ill premature babies, and has the potential to help doctors detect subtle changes in their vital signs and diagnose illness earlier. The hope is that this software will not only help reduce mortality rates in premature infants in Canada and around the world, but it could also benefit rural and remote communities where specialists, such as neonatologists, are not always available.