Computer applications in anesthesia patient care have evolved with advancement of computer technology, information processing capability, and anesthesia devices and procedures.
Anesthesia is an integral part of most surgical operations. The objectives of anesthesia are to achieve hypnosis (consciousness control), analgesia (pain control), and immobility (body movement control) simultaneously throughout surgical operations, while maintaining the vital functions of the body. Vital functions, such as respiration and circulation of blood, are assessed by signs such as blood pressures, heart rate, end-tidal carbon dioxide (CO2), oxygen saturation by pulse oximetry (SpO2), and so on. These objectives are carefully balanced and maintained by a dedicated anesthesia provider using a combination of sedative agents, hypnotic drugs, narcotic drugs, and, in many surgeries, muscle relaxants. Anesthesia decisions and management are complicated tasks, in which anesthetic requirements and agent dosages depend critically on the surgical procedures, the patient's medical conditions, drug interactions, and coordinated levels of anesthesia depth and physiological variables. Anesthesia decisions impact significantly on surgery and patient outcomes, drug consumptions, hospital stays, and therefore quality of patient care and healthcare cost (Fig. 1).
Computer technologies have played essential roles in assisting and improving patient care in anesthesia. Development of computer technology started from its early stages of bulky computing machines, progressed to minicomputers and microcomputers, exploded with its storage capability and computational speed, and evolved into multiprocessor systems, distributed systems, computer networks, and multimedia systems. Computer applications in anesthesia have taken advantage of this technology advancement. Early computer applications in medicine date back to the late 1950s when some hospitals began to develop computer data processing systems to assist administration, such as storage, management, and analysis of patient and procedural data and records. The main goals were to reduce manpower in managing ever-growing patient data, patient and room scheduling, anesthesia supply tracking, and billing. During the past four decades computer utility in anesthesia has significantly progressed to include computer-controlled fluid administration and drug dispersing, advanced anesthesia monitoring, anesthesia information systems, computer assisted anesthesia control, computer-assisted diagnosis and decisions, and telemedicine in anesthesia.