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UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Senior Director
Telephone: 412-586-9777

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Nurse and clinical improvement specialist Toni Morrison demonstrates the features of the SmartRoom solution.

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IBM and UPMC Partner to Make ‘Smart’ Patient Room Even Smarter

PITTSBURGH, July 28 – IBM and UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) are teaming up to bring “smarter” hospital rooms to patients nationwide. Created by UPMC three years ago to bring the right patient information to the bedside when it’s needed, the high-tech “smart room” now features new capabilities, namely 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 solution and will help to implement the technology for customers. 

“As the national debate on health care reform has shown, the battle to improve the safety, quality and efficiency of health care has many fronts. 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,” said Michael Boroch, chief executive officer of SmartRoom, a company wholly owned by UPMC and jointly funded by IBM. “It’s estimated that only 30 to 40 percent of a nurse’s time is spent on direct care. 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 health care 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. A hostess who delivers 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 (EMRs). 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 health care,” said Dan Pelino, general manager, IBM Healthcare and Life Sciences. “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.”

The latest addition to the system’s functionality is a formula for evaluating all of a nurse’s or patient care technician’s tasks for each patient. The software helps to determine which tasks should be completed in which order to most effectively and safely care for patients, and it alerts the appropriate caregiver by mobile device or when he or she walks into the patient’s room. Unexpected interruptions—from new physician orders to lengthy discussions with a patient’s family—are factored into the dynamically changing priority list.

Using a simple touchscreen interface on a monitor in the patient’s room, a nurse or aide can document the completion of tasks in just a few seconds, rather than writing down the information and waiting to enter it into a computer later. SmartRoom provides real-time links to key clinical systems, including pharmacy and lab services. Patient email, testing schedules, education and other features also are offered through the SmartRoom technology. 

IBM’s funding for SmartRoom comes from an unusual $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. 

“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 health care providers.

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About UPMC

UPMC is an $8 billion integrated global health enterprise headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is one of the leading nonprofit health systems in the United States. As western Pennsylvania’s largest employer, with almost 50,000 employees, UPMC is transforming the economy of the region into one based on medicine, research and technology. By integrating 20 hospitals, 400 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, long-term care facilities and a major health insurance services division, and in collaboration with its academic partner, the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, UPMC has advanced the quality and efficiency of health care and developed internationally renowned programs in transplantation, cancer, neurosurgery, psychiatry, orthopaedics and sports medicine, among others. UPMC is commercializing its medical and technological expertise by nurturing new companies, developing strategic business relationships with some of the world’s leading multinational corporations, and expanding into international markets, including Italy, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Cyprus and Japan. Learn more about UPMC here.

About IBM

For more information about IBM, visit their website.

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