ATLANTA (April 9, 2018) – A submission from the Pediatric Heart Network (PHN), a consortium of nine leading North American children’s hospitals, including Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, has been named as one of six 2018 finalists for the INFORMS Franz Edelman Award for Achievements in Advanced Analytics, Operations Research and Management Science. The Edelman Award is a prestigious honor given for achievement in the practice of advanced analytics and operations research. For more than four decades, winners have been recognized for revolutionary contributions that transform how we approach some of the world’s most complex problems.
The PHN, created and funded in 2001 by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, is a collaboration of clinical sites and a data coordinating center that conducts research studies in children with congenital or acquired heart disease. William Mahle, M.D., Co-Chief of Cardiac Services and Director of Cardiovascular Research at Children’s, first proposed the PHN research project and ultimately submitted “Collaborative Systems Analytics: Establishing Effective Clinical Practice Guidelines for Advancing Congenital Cardiac Care” for award consideration.
“To be named as a finalist is an incredible honor and a strong testament to the value of developing novel strategies to advance medical outcomes,” said Dr. Mahle. “We’re proud to be part of the PHN, which facilitates strong relationships between pediatric institutions across the country to foster collaboration and innovation. This project far exceeded our expectations, and we hope that this model of exchanging ideas and best practices across industries can lead to many more improvements in healthcare, including pediatric cardiac care, for years to come.”
Collaborative learning is a method often used in other fields, including the airline industry, to disseminate knowledge in an efficient and timely manner, providing a complement to traditional, randomized trials. The specific goal of PHN’s study was to apply that collaborative model to pediatric healthcare in order to reduce inconsistent cardiac surgical outcomes and improve the care of children who require heart surgery.
The study, which began in 2010, resulted in clinical practice guidelines for pre-, intra-, and post-surgical care of patients with congenital heart defects. The research team was aided by the support of the industrial engineering team at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Typically, cardiac patients often have their breathing tubes left in place for hours or days after heart surgery, thereby leaving them attached to a mechanical ventilator. One PHN-affiliated hospital had already reduced the need for a ventilator post-surgery, so the research team sought to prove that the transformative protocol could be successfully translated to other pediatric sites as well. Through a series of site visits, phone calls and shared protocols, the PHN researchers identified significant factors for influencing surgical outcome, then implemented the advanced practice of early extubation to four other mid-size to large congenital heart programs through North America, including Children’s in 2014. The new approach resulted in a reduced need for the mechanical ventilator following surgery, with the majority of patients able to breathe on their own within hours after surgery.
Additionally, the newly adopted strategy resulted in reduced need for pain medication (including opioid medications such as fentanyl), decreased time in the intensive care unit, faster feeding by mouth post-surgery, and greatly reduced hospital costs for cardiac patients across participating sites (up to 27 percent, or $13,500 per patient).
The list of Edelman Award finalists also includes innovative projects by recognizable names such as Intel, the Federal Communications Commission, and Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., among others. Dr. Mahle will be presenting his team’s findings to a panel of judges in Baltimore on April 16, and the winner will be announced later that day.