The Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality of Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore, and aerospace and defense giant Lockheed Martin have agreed to begin research on creating a safer and more efficient intensive care unit (ICU).

Johns Hopkins is collaborating with Lockheed Martin in neighboring Bethesda, Md., to design a new ICU that streamlines complex and fragmented clinical systems and processes. The goal is to reduce medical errors and improve the quality of care for critically ill patients.

A typical ICU is loaded with 50 to 100 pieces of electronic equipment that may not communicate with each other or work together effectively, says Peter Pronovost, M.D., director of the Armstrong Institute and senior vice president for patient safety and quality for Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The piecemeal approach by which hospitals currently design ICUs is inefficient and prone to error, which adds risk to an already complicated environment, he says. A single system that could prioritize patient alarms based on individual risk of cardiac or respiratory arrest, for example, could prevent alarm fatigue.

"Lockheed Martin has the expertise to integrate complex systems to help us build a safer and more efficient ICU model not just for Johns Hopkins, but for patients around the world," says Pronovost.