Informed by the Lean methods of the Toyota Production System, innovators at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) have created a clever and unique “smart hospital room.” Walking into a UPMC smart hospital room is like walking into healthcare’s future.

Upon entry of the caregiver into the patient’s room, a screen by the patient automatically shows the caregiver’s name, role, and, after a HIPAA privacy step, the caregiver immediately views relevant clinical information. At the same time, when anyone enters or leaves the room, a small spotlight highlights the hand sanitizer station on the wall-a subtle reminder that the individual should clean her or his hands. The screens are designed to present exactly the information each caregiver needs for that visit, and includes known allergies, medications, and necessary clinical actions. Because the screens are voice-activated, the caregiver only needs to speak to have the patient health record (PHR) show the requested information.

The effort to create the smart hospital room started in 2006, after a patient with a known latex allergy was touched by an IV nurse and suffered a severe reaction. The angry patient, with a swollen, puffy arm, even threw a bowl of soup at someone in the room. “The fact is we, as an organization, made it easy for her (the IV nurse) to fail,” observed David Sharbaugh, Senior Director of the Center for Quality Improvement and Innovation at UPMC. Sharbaugh led the effort to create the smart room. Studying the source of errors caused the improvement team to focus on caregiver’s access to information. “Electronic health records and medical information are, in a large part, cooped up in computers located at different strategic locations throughout the unit,” observed Sharbaugh. “All we are trying to do is to make that information accessible without adding extra work for the caregivers and the patient.”

Following the success of the first prototype smart room at 486-bed UPMC Shadyside Hospital, a total of 24 hospital rooms in the same ward were converted to smart rooms by this summer. Clinical patient information comes from an electronic medical record (EMR) by Cerner Corporation (NSDAQ:CERN) of Kansas City, Missouri. UPMC clinicians wear ultrasonic tags, about half the size of a pager, made by Sonitor of Olso, Norway.

Lab managers and pathologists will find it interesting that phlebotomists are one of five types of positions wearing the ultrasound tags. Other positions wearing ultrasound tags include: physician, nurse, nurse’s assistant, and host (who brings the patient into the room and is responsible for transport and dietary work).

For those wanting to learn more, Lucy Thompson, R.N., MN CCRN, Improvement Specialist, UPMC Center For Quality Improvement and Innovation, will present the story of the UPMC Smart Hospital Room and Lessons Learned at the upcoming Lab Quality Confab on Quality Management in Diagnostic Medicine. Lab Quality Confab will take place from September 24-25, 2008 at the Hilton Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. More than 50 sessions and topics will cover the full range of laboratory and pathology operations, ranging from specimen collection and courier logistics to using Lean with automation in the high-volume core laboratory. Poster sessions will take place, and national awards and prizes totaling $6,000 will be awarded. To see topics, speakers, and all the events at Lab Quality Confab, visit http://www.labqualityconfab.com.

To register for Lab Quality Confab, visit http://www.labqualityconfab.com/register.htm.

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Full program information and speaker agenda for Lab Quality Confab

Complete details about the Lean-Six Sigma Poster Presentations, National Trophies, and Cash Awards, along with Poster Presentation Application and Abstract forms