Saving money, saving lives: Vanderbilt's perioperative information management system

Does information technology really improve care quality and safety?  Can well designed and implemented clinical software applications really improve physician satisfaction?  Can healthcare information technology really have a positive return on investment?  For Vanderbilt University Medical Center's perioperative anesthesia department the answers are yes, yes, and yes

While not every IT solution in healthcare clearly demonstrates results as stunning as those I'm about to share,  here's what I gleaned from a keynote presentation made by Dr. Paul St. Jacques earlier this week at the MSHUG Tech Forum 2007 in Redmond. Dr. St. Jacques shared the stage with me on day one of the conference.  I delivered the opening keynote, and he provided the close.

Dr. St. Jacques is Associate Professor and Director of Anesthesiology Informatics in the anesthesiology department at Vanderbilt.  Vanderbilt's perioperative information management system, VPIMS, serves as "master control" for the medical center's 60 operating rooms in 6 suites, handling thousands of surgical cases each year.  You may be surprised to learn that less than 5 percent of all surgeries in America are fully managed and documented electronically.  That's right.  In the year 2007, 95 percent of the "life and death" work-flow processes in surgery are still done on paper.

So what's to be gained by going electronic?  How about a 100 percent improvement in on-time cases starts, or a 90 percent compliance with perioperative antibiotic protocols resulting in an 1 percent decrease in surgical wound infections.  How about a 67 percent reduction in chart errors.  How about the average time to produce a billable chart moving from 12 days to 1, with a $1 Million plus improvement in formerly lost revenues.  Or how about a 10 percent yearly increase in case volume without adding capacity, keeping in mind that every additional case per day generates more than $1 Million in revenue per year.

VPIMS handles everything from surgery scheduling, to perioperative documentation, to billing.  In addition, a module called Vigilance provides real-time monitoring of every operating room in the facility with multi-view streaming video, patient vital signs, alerts and reminders.  It might look like something out of Star Wars, but what it does for patient safety and staff satisfaction is priceless. And did I mention there's a whole lot of Microsoft technology under the covers?

Greater detail on VPIMS is beyond the scope of my Blog.  Let me just say if you ever want proof that information technology in medicine saves lives and saves money, look no farther than the very fine work going on at Vanderbilt.  And yes, VPIMS has been so successful at Vanderbilt that the medical center is exploring options to commercialize and sell it.  And with 95 percent of the market still doing perioperative management on paper, they should have no problem finding customers. 

Bill Crounse, MD     Worldwide Health Director    Microsoft Corporation 


PS  If you would like information about some of the other presentations at this year's MSHUG Tech Forum, my good friend and colleauge who serves as Microsoft's senior technical strategist for our worldwide health group, Roberto Ruggeri, provides play by play coverage on his Healthcare IT Blog.