Each year in Europe, around 300 000 babies are born prematurely. Our H2020 funded project Digi-NewB aims to achieve a non-invasive monitoring system which will help doctors and nurses take better decisions in a shorter time to prevent infections. How do we achieve this? By using the potential of big data!

This is a guest blog post written by Pr. Pladys, scientific coordinator of the Digi-NewB H2020 funded project

Premature newborns have to complete their maturation outside the mother's womb and their immune system is not completely operational leading to an increased risk of infection. Earlier diagnosis and less invasive monitoring systems are paramount. And this is what our H2020 funded project Digi-NewB is aiming to achieve.

Digi-NewB started in March 2016 but the idea came from a much earlier cooperation between the Rennes University Hospital and the Rennes 1 University (Image and Signal Processing Laboratory), and between several hospitals in the west of France thanks to the network GCS HUGO. With 7 European partners, we aim to develop a new generation of monitoring systems in neonatal intensive care units, which will help us predict the infection risk and take better decisions. How can we achieve this? By using the potential of big data! In particular, we will extract parameters such as respiratory rate, heart rate variability, oxygen desaturation, and test new approaches with video and sound to monitor sleep, movements, etc.

The project will also help us improve the baby’s maturation monitoring. As an example, we expect to use video recordings to monitor sleep, a very important aspect of maturation. By using video we also aim to prevent as much as possible invasive monitoring systems, i.e. with sensors on the body.

The project is already well advanced on designing and testing the prototype that will be used to create the database we need for the monitoring system. We also benefit from very early user-centered design process and started to receive feedback from nurses and doctors.. During four years, we will work with our European partners on delivering concrete steps and results on the way to the final Digi-NewB system. This implies for example working on developing a reliable and predictive decision support system by joining up research activities on health informatics and signal processing and by achieving a relevant, user-friendly interface. We expect to involve data from at least 700 babies coming from 6 hospitals in the west of France.

In the framework of the World Prematurity Day on 17 November, we hope that Digi-NewB will be a step forward to improve care in neonatology units in Europe.