On May 24th, I had the pleasure of leading the Federal Health Community (FHC) tour through University Hospital, part of University Health System (UHS), in San Antonio, Texas, as part of a HIMSS initiative to showcase commercial healthcare facilities to federal employees. HIMSS FHC is a membership community for federal employees and direct contractors who work or are interested in the health IT space.
Created in 2009, the community has grown to nearly 1,400 members.
- We have monthly teleconferences where we hear about interagency activities;
- We meet in person at various HIMSS events; and
- Members have the opportunity to collaborate and network with their federal colleagues.
For this San Antonio visit, which was the first regional visit for the FHC, we partnered with the San Antonio HIMSS chapter that hosted us for a double-header HIMSS event. The chapter put on its monthly Lunch & Learn meeting with Dr. Harry Greenspun as the keynote speaker, and they encouraged chapter members to participate in the FHC event as well.
Bill Phillips, CIO of UHS and board member of the San Antonio HIMSS chapter, arranged for our group to tour four departments of University Hospital. On-site, Mr. Phillips gave us the opportunity to meet with head staff to showcase and explain the many moving pieces of this high-tech facility.
The first presentation was about UHS’ medication refrigerator RFID system, device monitoring capabilities and infection control and reporting system.
The medication refrigerators are managed electronically using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to ensure that:
- medication is stored at appropriate temperatures;
- power sources are adequate for proper function; and
- service is rendered immediately in the case of a malfunction.
Devices are also monitored electronically, so that staff members are aware of their location at all times, and can ensure that they function properly.
The infection control system keeps track of various types of infections, detecting early stages of potential outbreaks, and also, automatically reports infection control data to the CDC and other various government authorities.
We then split into two groups to tour the three remaining departments: the operating room, transplant and radiology.
Operating room: In the operating room, participants saw how real-time location systems (RTLS) are used to track the location, status and movement of both equipment and personnel. This technology helps ensure that instruments are accounted for during and after the operation.
Transplant floor: On the transplant floor, we learned how the nursing staff uses a fully integrated EHR tailored to the needs of transplant patients and staff. To verify identity and ensure the right patient is receiving the right care, staff use bracelets with bar codes tied directly into the EHR system and allow wireless input of vitals into the patient record.
Radiology: On this floor, clinicians used the same technology as on the transplant floor and a completely electronic imaging system that allowed them to both view and manipulate x-rays and other images.
Further, the software allows clinicians to complete digital templates for orthopedic treatment, which is a much more accurate technique than scaling to size from printed x-ray images. This was my favorite of part of the tour because we saw real images of real patients (with identifying data excluded, of course!), and even saw the doctor construct a corrective treatment for a broken bone using the software.
The opportunity to tour UHS was more valuable than these few short paragraphs can express. We were not only able to see how health IT was transforming healthcare in real-time for real patients, but could also learn from and ask questions of clinicians who use these tools every day.
This was the first regional site visit HIMSS has hosted for the FHC, and I am already excited for next year’s event!
- What facilities have you toured and would you recommend for the FHC to tour next?
- What technologies did you find most exciting at this facility?
Katie Boyer is Manager, Federal Affairs, with HIMSS.