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Florence Nightingale, « the lady with the lamp » pioneer of the Big Data in Health Care

Italian by birth, but raised in England, Florence Nightingale not only revolutionized the nursing profession, but also statistics applied to healthcare; therefore establishing the foundations of Big Data.

On May 12, several important events are commemorated, such as World Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Day and International Nurses Day. It is precisely the last of these that we owe to Florence Nightingale. Born in Italy, she put herself before her family to achieve her aspirations, to become a nurse and a statistician. Two achievements that she accomplished and for which we owe her great advances in the field of health. That is why every 12th of May we celebrate her birth, which which will celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2020.
Born in 1820 into an upper-class family of the Victorian era, Florence’s future was to be educated to achieve the feminine ideal of the 19th century and to marry. However, the privileged education she received with her sister gave her a thirst for knowledge. A knowledge that she wanted to focus on in the area of medicine as a nurse, at first self-taught in the light of her family’s refusal, and later occupying the position of superintendent at the London Institute for the Care of Sick Ladies.
Her extensive training and experience in the field of nursing was crucial in the conflict that broke out in 1854, the Crimean War. The poor state of health of the soldiers prompted the Secretary of State to appoint Florence as an army officer. The aim was to form a team of nurses who could look after the field hospitals at the front in Scutari (Turkey).
The situation they found on arrival was deplorable: unventilated rooms with wounded soldiers crowded together, dirty bedding and uniforms, malnutrition, … Factors that had triggered diseases such as typhus, dysentery or cholera and which were damaging the army.
In addition to work on improving the facilities, sanitation, laundry and even food, Florence collected data and systematized the control of records. She achieved this through pioneering methods for the time, such as collection, tabulation and presentation. In this way, she managed to create understandable statistics capable of drawing conclusions.
An example of this is her « Rose Diagram » to represent the causes and evolution of the mortality of soldiers during their stay in the military hospital of Scutari.

Her contributions to the field of health statistics did not end there, Florence Nightingale continued to struggle to make the figures visible by working on reports concerning rural India in her later years. Florence created a detailed statistical report on health conditions, thus promoting improvements in both health care and public health.
All her contributions to the field of statistics were rewarded in 1858, making her the first woman member of the Royal Statistical Society, and she even became an honorary member of the American Statistical Association in 1874.
Perhaps the best known of Florence Nightingale’s achievements were her vigilance for the wounded soldiers of the Crimea during the night, which earned her the nickname ‘lady with the lamp’. However, her legacy has led us to the current Big Data in Healthcare.

From Rose Diagram to Big Data in Healthcare

Knowledge is power, and power is precisely something fundamental in medicine. The privilege that knowledge brings us translates into something vital within the health area: saving lives.
Knowing the facts and figures of everything that happens in medicine allows us to draw conclusions that can improve health care in aspects as varied as being able to prevent diseases, even before they are diagnosed; finding out about the incidence of certain pathologies; and even understanding conditions that were previously unknown, such as the current COVID-19.
Without the statistics and the Big Data within the current pandemic we could not know the penetration of the disease within the population, the age ranges most affected, the most common symptoms, and a long list of other elements that are being essential in the fight against the virus.
Just as Florence Nightingale’s statistics revealed that if the mortality rate was 1,174 per 10,000 soldiers, 1,023 soldiers died due to infectious diseases during the Crimean War, and forced Queen Victoria to take hygiene measures within hospitals. Today, the Big Data analysis allows all the information to be analysed together in order to gain more medical knowledge and expertise, as well as better guidance with regard to health decisions, ultimately benefiting the patient.
Being aware that the Big Data is fundamental, how do we integrate it and obtain that valuable information within the hospital environment without the extra workload for the professionals of the centre? Through the digitalization of the processes as implemented by MYSPHERA through IoT technology.

MYSPHERA, beyond a traceability system

The MYSPHERA solution arises from the need to evolve the health system without putting it on the backs of the most valuable asset, the staff. Digitalization is part of almost every area of our lives, why shouldn’t it be added to one as fundamental as the health system?

Through the ‘Hospital Process Manager’, based on RTLS technology (Real Time Location System), not only do we provide medical centres with the possibility of knowing the location and information of all their patients in real time, but we also add effectiveness, efficiency, visibility and, above all, control of all the processes that take place in the facilities.
A detailed follow-up that offers us what we consider to be the most valuable in medicine, knowledge. Knowledge that the platform manages through visualization and data analysis dashboards; and which it also processes to offer key information to improve care processes, patient flow, occupation, etc.
Vital information that, for example, is capable of improving surgical performance by up to 10% and, therefore, we achieve the main objective of the health system: to improve the quality of patient care and the working conditions of professionals.

By: Mireya Lázaro