Dr. Jeffrey Burns ’80, chief of critical care at Boston Children’s Hospital and associate professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School, is program director of OPENPediatrics, the newly created and first cloud-based global education technology platform designed to improve the exchange of medical knowledge on critically ill children around the world. OPENPediatrics was created by IBM and Boston Children’s Hospital.
“Nothing breaks down walls and brings people together like caring for a critically ill child,” said Burns in an IBM press release, noting that with the corporation’s “technology and services arsenal” and the hospital’s expertise in pediatric critical care, the two institutions “partnered to bring our vision of stronger pediatric care to countries across the globe. In doing so, we’re extending the reach of medical education to help save children’s lives and laying the groundwork for the Digital Hospital of the future.”
The site, OPENPediatrics, is designed to do three things, Burns said. Since it is cloud-based—efficient, cost-effective and not requiring a global technology infrastructure—It will provide a reliable platform to get information to care for a critically ill child anywhere in the world. It will also provide a social network, so experts around the world can collaborate. Third, it will provide physicians with effective educational techniques that rely on active learning.
In a YouTube video (see below), Burns tells “the story of two girls and how they served as a catalyst” for OPENPediatrics: One was his patient, a young girl in Boston, who was suffering from a blood infection and in danger of organ failure. His team was able to save her. Some time afterwards, a physician from Guatemala called Burns for assistance with another patient, also a young girl in critical condition.
Working through a video link-up, the physicians were able to communicate, Burns explained the procedures he had used for his patient, and another life was saved—despite some difficulties with data transmission. Deeply aware that those technical hindrances could cause a dire outcome for some future consultation, Burns cast about for a web site he could use as a model for pediatric critical care education. Oddly enough, he found it on the Masters’ Golf Tournament site—an interactive design made for adult learners. Discovering that the site was an IBM product, he reached out to the company with his idea, which has become OPENPediatrics.
Burns notes that while initially much of the content for OPENPediatrics is generated at Boston Children’s, the exchange of information must—and will—run in all directions, across the global community. “I don’t take care of much malaria,” he notes. “We have colleagues of mine in Southeast Asia who are world experts in malaria. We need to put them on the platform so they can explain how to take care of these patients.”
Burns also notes some Wesleyan affiliations in his OPENPediatrics team: Rebecca Burns ’12, a communication associate; Sarah O’Brien (daughter of Tim O’Brien ’81), communications associate; and Ariana Samalot ’11, an administrative associate for OPENPediatrics. Additionally, current students Laura Getchell ’14 and Min Suh ’15 enjoyed summer internships at OPENPediatrics.