Intermountain looks to the future, again

New Healthcare Transformation Lab prototypes include 3D printed medical devices, advanced sensors and more
By Mike Miliard
10:53 AM
Mark Probst

Intermountain Healthcare has joined with a group of IT companies including Intel and Dell to launch its new Healthcare Transformation Lab, which will work to bring envelope-pushing technologies to the bedside faster and more efficiently.

Having pioneered the use of electronic medical records, informatics and evidence-based care as far back as the 1970s, Intermountain has always been a forward-looking organization. Chief Information Officer Marc Probst says this new project is just the latest example of that.

"Innovators look past walls, and say, 'We can do it better,'" says Probst in a video interview. "I think we have a lot of that thinking here in the Transformation Lab."

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At a time in healthcare that's "incredibly unique," with "so much happening so quickly," Probst says the lab is a way to capitalize on that momentum, pushing forward to "extend the use of future – or not-yet-proven – technologies into Intermountain Healthcare, and bring forth innovative or transformational technologies into our operations."

The Transformation Lab is developed in conjunction with Intel and Salt Lake City-based Xi3, which has developed a new modular archictecture design for computers and servers. Dell, CenturyLink, NetApp, and Sotera Wireless are also taking part in lab, which is located on the campus of Intermountain's flagship hospital, Intermountain Medical Center, in Murray, Utah.

At the Transformation Lab, Intermountain employees and collaborating organizations will jointly research, develop and measure new ideas to improve and optimize patient care, officials say.

Once these innovations have been studied and reviewed, teams will work together to rapidly design, create, and test new healthcare technologies to be used at Intermountain facilities – and possibly across the nation, depending on contractual and regulatory obligations.

In the video below, Probst, speaking earlier this year at HIMSS13 in New Orleans, describes another of Intermountain's innovative initiatives – a partnership with Deloitte that will tap Intermountain's troves of data, amassed over decades, to mine for insights into better care.



[See also: Intemountain, Deloitte put data to work.]

Some of projects already under way at the Healthcare Transformation Lab include prototypes ready for display, officials say. The "Patient Room of the Future," for instance, is equipped with interactive technologies that enable monitoring of patients' vital signs – heart rate, electrocardiogram, blood pressure, oxygenation level, respiration, and temperature – wirelessly. The room also has the ability to be personalized to each patient, with light, sound, entertainment and Internet access.
Another innovation is pioneering work with 3D printing of medical devices, say Intermountain officials. 3D printers at the lab are being used to produce prototypes of medical devices and equipment for testing and clinical purposes.
The lab worked collaboratively with clinicians to develop a hand-hygiene sensor device – it can be worn like a watch by hospital caregivers – that positively reinforces proper hand hygiene to reduce infections. Another prototype, the so-called "Life Detector," was developed as a simple, unobtrusive tool that uses real-time data to alert caregivers of changes to patients' vital signs, in or out of medical facilities.
Probst says Intermountain teams will continue to explore, working with technology companies and innovative developers to try out new tools that can be put to use in the 21st century for better health, better care and lower costs.
"The good ideas … are coming from all over," he says. "Our partners are an opportunity for us to gather more good thinking."

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