Barcoding and Patient Context

One of the most important areas of connectivity, and one that frequently does not receive the attention it deserves, is establishing and maintaining patient context. Historically, connected devices identified data by location – tagging data with a bed or even port number – rather than the actual patient name or ID. Because patients are frequently moved during an episode of care – not to mention ambulatory – data that is only tagged with a location presents risks of misidentification. In an effort to improve positive patient identification, data is increasingly tagged with a patient identifier.

Besides patient safety, patient context also greatly impacts medical device workflow. (Medical device connectivity is workflow automation through the integration of medical devices and information systems.) How a vendor implements patient context can have a big impact on usability and customer acceptance.

Patient context requirements can vary, based on the type of medical device in question. What is not variable is the requirement to reliably establish and maintain context. Mobile applications (like smart pumps or patient monitoring) where the device may go in and out of network coverage while constantly in use present special challenges. This compares to a fixed or portable medical device, like a dialysis machine or diagnostic ultrasound, with an episodic use case during which neither the device or patient is moved. Another variable is whether the application is life-critical. Continuous patient monitoring and many alarms (e.g., smart pumps and ventilators) are life-critical applications with a higher threshold of requirements. This contrasts with connectivity for documentation like with point of care testing or spot vital signs capture. In all cases though, patient context must be safe and reliable. The above issues just help define how many hoops you have to jump through to be safe and reliable.

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Hospira Acquires Sculptor

Today Hospira announced they have acquired Sculptor Developmental Technologies (press release). A subsidiary of St. Clair Health Corporation, Sculptor was a software engineering company formed by St. Clair Hospital in 1993 to create solutions that St. Clair couldn’t buy from vendors. Sculptor’s solutions include a barcode meds administration system, an enterprise report print management application, advanced printing for Eclipsys, fax distribution software and similar tools. Sculptor has an installed base of more than 125 hospitals in North America. The deal includes St. Clair Hospital serving as a development and test site for Hospira medication management products.

Obligatory chest thumping:

“This acquisition brings together two leaders in healthcare IT — Hospira has led the industry in barcoding medications and infusion technology; and St. Clair, through Sculptor, was the first hospital in the country to combine barcoding and RFID in a single mobile device for the real-time workflow needs of clinical staff,” said Richard Schaeffer, vice president and chief information officer, St. Clair Hospital.

Note the emphasis on workflow. Given the greater experience of Sculptor, this may end up being a better acquisition for Hospira than CareFusion was for Cardinal.

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