Microservices Matters

Oct 27 2010   6:29PM GMT

Pittsburgh hospital room gets the SmartRoom treatment

Kathleen Kriz Profile: Kathleen Kriz

By Kathleen Kriz and Jack Vaughan

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center recently updated a medical care workflow system to help medical staff prioritize tasks to more effectively care for patients. This is part of an on-going effort to implement “SmartRoom” hospital workflow centered on in-room computer technology.

Created by UPMC and IBM, the SmartRoom systems have capabilities that make hospital stays easier for everyone from the patients to their families and doctors. The medical caregivers are given ultrasound-based ID tags that register with a high-frequency beep inaudible to humans. This brings up patient information unique to the staffer walking in – a doctor will see different information than a nurse. It also displays the caregiver’s name and position for the patient. Via touch-screen display, a nurse or doctor can trigger automatic update of appropriate electronic records.

Creating the SmartRoom has been a multiyear undertaking. IBM and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center created a $50-million co-development fund, and a new SmartRoom company, to commercialize the effort. New pieces are continually added. Earlier this year the system added algorithms derived from UPMC nursing staff activities that can establish the order in which tasks should be accomplished.

The benefits are numerous, but Dave Sharbaugh, president of the SmartRoom company, says the two key attributes are the increase in patient safety and the ease of workflow. “The information is real-time,” said Sharbaugh. “Working from that most current set of information allows us to take care of our patients as safely as we can. It’s sort of this immediate access to information at your fingertips which really brings a lot of value.”

The workflow is also simplified. Created with patients and workers in mind, the SmartRoom makes it possible for caregivers to spend more time with the patients and less time in front of a computer screen. “We’ve spent a lot of time working on designing the user interface so that the nurses, nursing assistants, doctors and other users of the system can very easily do the work that had previously been a little more challenging,” said Sharbaugh.

Since the information is entered into the computer as it is received, caregivers don’t have to worry about writing it on a chart, and copying it into a computer later where there will be more room for error.

According to Toni Morrison, a UPMC nurse and clinical product design lead, the system has proven to be virtually errorless. “With the SmartRoom we’re able to take your blood pressure and your five key vital signs and enter it straight into the room without leaving,” said Morrison. “And with the technology we have with SmartRoom we’ve seen an 82% reduction in documentation.”

These rooms provide useful and important information for the caregivers, but the value goes beyond medical uses to make the patient’s stay more comfortable. On their TV screens, patients and their families can get patient education, games, puzzles and personal emails which are all integrated in the SmartRoom.

“It’s multi-factorial,” said Sharbaugh. “There’s a lot going on in the SmartRoom.”

Underlying SmartRoom is an enterprise service bus based on IBM WebSphere Message Broker that interfaces with backend systems. Open interfaces were created according to principles of a service oriented architecture (SOA). Sonitor Technologies developed the ultrasound sensing devices that identify system users as they enter the hospital room.

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