UPMC to market its ‘smart’ hospital rooms

By Bernie Monegain
10:17 AM

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is partnering with IBM to market UPMC's "smart" hospital rooms nationwide.

Created by UPMC three years ago to bring the right patient information to the bedside when it's needed, UPMC has made the room even smarter, with a system for automatically organizing and prioritizing the work of nurses and other caregivers.

Under a new agreement, IBM will be the exclusive sales channel for the SmartRoom and will help to implement the technology for customers.

"As the national debate on healthcare reform has shown, the battle to improve the safety, quality and efficiency of healthcare has many fronts," said Michael Boroch, chief executive officer of SmartRoom, a company wholly owned by UPMC and jointly funded by IBM. "One of the most important is the inpatient nursing unit, where our SmartRoom solution tackles the everyday problems of simplifying workflow, making documentation easier and giving nurses more quality time at the bedside."

IBM's funding for SmartRoom comes from a $50 million co-development fund created by UPMC and IBM in 2005, when they entered into an eight-year agreement to transform UPMC's information technology infrastructure while developing and commercializing clinical solutions. SmartRoom is the largest investment by the fund to date.

"It's estimated that only 30 to 40 percent of a nurse's time is spent on direct care," Boroch said. "With SmartRoom, we believe that we can raise that number for the benefit of caregivers and their patients." 
First tested at UPMC Shadyside, the SmartRoom capabilities have been expanded to 24 rooms at UPMC Montefiore in Pittsburgh. Using small ultrasound tags from Sonitor Technologies, the SmartRoom system identifies healthcare workers wearing the tags as they walk into a patient's room, displaying the person's identity and role on a wall-mounted monitor visible to patients.

At the same time, the SmartRoom solution automatically provides the clinician with relevant, real-time patient information pulled from the electronic medical record, including allergies, vital signs, test results and medications that are due. The information shown on the caregiver's monitor is tailored to the needs of the specific worker. 
Personnel who deliver meal trays, for example, will see only dietary orders and allergy information. A doctor will see different information than a nurse. 
"Hospitals have made significant investments in their electronic medical records," said Dan Pelino, general manager, IBM Healthcare and Life Sciences. "SmartRoom allows hospitals to increase the value they get from these systems and to close the gap between the EMR and the bedside to deliver smarter healthcare."

Pelino said the results of the initial pilots are "exciting," showing that documentation errors can be reduced, safety can be improved, productivity can be increased and the cost of the patient's stay can be lowered.

"SmartRoom is a perfect example of the technology and strategic benefits of our partnership with IBM," said David Sharbaugh, founder and president of the new company. After developing its own prototype of the system, UPMC worked with IBM to create more open interfaces with back-end systems. By redesigning the solution with a service-oriented architecture, SmartRoom can deploy the technology more broadly at UPMC and other healthcare providers.