Math. Model. Nat. Phenom.
Volume 5, Number 3, 2010Mathematical modeling in the medical sciences
|Page(s)||165 - 172|
|Published online||28 April 2010|
The Language of Caring: Quantitating Medical Practice Patterns using Symbolic Dynamics
Department of Medicine, University of Hawaii
2 Departments of Critical Care Medicine and Anesthesiology, University of Pittsburgh
3 Department of Mathematics , Vanderbilt University
4 Departments of Critical Care Medicine and Medicine, University of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Veterans Affairs Healthcare System
* Corresponding author. E-mail:
Real-world medical decisions rarely involve binary Ðsole condition present or absent- patterns of patient pathophysiology. Similarly, provider interventions are rarely unitary in nature: the clinician often undertakes multiple interventions simultaneously. Conventional approaches towards complex physiologic derangements and their associated management focus on the frequencies of joint appearances, treating the individual derangements of physiology or elements of intervention as conceptually isolated. This framework is ill suited to capture either the integrated patterns of derangement displayed by a particular patient or the integrated patterns of provider intervention. Here we illustrate the application of a different approach-that of symbolic dynamics-in which the integrated pattern of each patients derangement, and the associated provider response, are captured by defining words based on the elements of the pattern of failure. We will use as an example provider practices in the context of mechanical ventilation- a common, potentially harmful, and complex life support technology. We also delineate other domains in which symbolic dynamics approaches might aid in quantitating practice patterns, assessing quality of care, and identifying best practices.
Mathematics Subject Classification: 92C60
Key words: symbol dynamics / patient care / language
© EDP Sciences, 2010
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