Austin-developed technology benefits Central Texas health care system


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN GUSKY

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

Posted on April 8, 2013 at 6:41 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 8 at 6:41 PM

AUSTIN -- Technology developed here in Austin is helping one local health care system better facilitate its doctor-patient care and save hours of manpower a day in the process.

Doctors and staff at Seton say just a short time ago they used to spend hours each day trying to coordinate staff and operating equipment using magnetic boards with handwritten notes, only to lose more valuable time when trying to shuffle staff after the inevitable changes would occur. 

Now all that lost time is a thing of the past with Seton's new wireless tracking technology.

Seton Medical Center on 38th Street can see how more than 50 patients a day in the operating room can pose logistical problems.

"One of our challenges here is we have 29 operating rooms," said Vicki Fox, R.N., the Director of Surgical Services at Seton Medical Center.

Now coordinating doctors and staff for 29 operating rooms is no longer a problem.

"I can see all 29 rooms here at Seton," said Chad Deiterichs, M.D., an Anesthesiologist at Seton Medical Center.

Deiterichs is surrounded by 72-inch, touch-screen TV monitors that are at the heart of Seton's new wireless tracking technology.   

"It really is a one-stop shop for surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and surgical techs," said Deiterichs. "(It gives them) a place to come and look and get all the information they need to facilitate them starting and doing their cases."

Each patient is assigned an ultrasound tracker. It stays with them throughout their stay in the hospital.  The ultrasound is picked up by one of the hundreds of detectors inside the hospital.

"As the patient move locations, from the admissions area to a pre-op area, they change to a different color," said Deiterichs, as he points to the screen.

Seton doctors and staff worked with the wireless technology developers to color code everything to maximize efficiency. There's even an app for that, so staff can see and follow the schedule and any changes on their smartphones no matter where they are.

"It easily saves us hours of doctor manpower a day," said Deiterichs.

"It also gives you a quiet environment," said Fox. "You'll notice you are not hearing an overhead pages."

Seton's wireless technology is similar to what airport passengers have been using for years when they scan the ever-changing departure and arrival boards.

"We look at the (Seton) board and say, 'OK. The flight's on the tarmac, or the patient is in the room,'" said Fox.  

Deiterichs likes the airport comparison but says there's one big difference.

"Surgery is a little different than the airport, because we don't have the luxury of just delaying if something funny happens," he said.  

Deiterichs says the new wireless tracking technology does allow for adjustments to be made on the fly.

Patients' family members also have access to these monitors in the waiting areas.

The wireless tracking technology is already being used at Dell Children's and Seton Medical Center.

Doctors there say they're so impressed with the technology that they've purchased and donated another system for UMC-Brackenridge.