Patient Safety Institute to test wireless communications network in two Washington State hospitals

Plano 02 May 2002The Patient Safety Institute (PSI) has selected two hospital sites based on their community leadership and patient-centric focus to demonstrate PSI's VISA-like communications network. PSI is a non-profit, voluntary, collaborative initiative formed to establish a technology-based patient safety and health care information solution. Based on the results from the demonstration sites, PSI anticipates a national rollout of the PSI system in 2003.


Installation of the PSI backbone system, which will provide real time, secure, patient-centric clinical information access to participating physicians has started on May 2, 2002 at the following locations:

  • Deaconess Medical Center and Valley Hospital and Medial Center, part of the Empire Health Services family, in Spokane, Washington.
  • Swedish First Hill, Swedish Providence, and Swedish Ballard, part of the Swedish Medical Center family, in Seattle, Washington. Altogether, more than 120 Swedish physicians will be part of the six-month trial. This includes doctors in the Family Practice Residency at the Swedish First Hill and Providence campuses and in the Emergency Departments at the First Hill, Ballard and Providence campuses.

Launched in December 2001, PSI was created by and for the three groups most directly involved in patient care: patients, physicians, and hospitals. PSI's solution is based on proven, open standards-based technologies that will enable the transfer and delivery of critical clinical information at the point of care. This network allows participating patients and providers to share information which is critical to making health care decisions including diagnoses, laboratory results, medications, allergies, and immunisations.

Ten years ago, the type of system PSI is building would not have been technologically feasible. Fortunately, a host of critical enabling technologies have emerged in recent years, including scalable open architecture computer servers, high-density storage arrays, handheld computers, and virtual private networks. PSI has also benefited from the successes of other efforts focused on using technology to improve patient care.

The PSI demonstration projects bring the reality of dramatic community-driven improvement to patient care one major step closer to fruition. PSI makes medical care safer by giving doctors real time access to more complete, up-to-date and secure information about the people they treat. Through PSI, physicians will use handheld computers, connected via a wireless network, and computer desktop browsers to access patient information aggregated by PSI.

With the patient's prior consent, physicians will be able to obtain and transmit five categories of vital clinical information: diagnoses or "problem list", current laboratory results, medication history, all known allergies, and immunisation history. Research has shown that incomplete or inaccurate data in these areas contributes to a significant percentage of all medical errors.

In 1999, the National Institute of Medicine released a study showing that clinical errors resulted in some 98.000 patient deaths annually. That is more than the total number of deaths due to traffic accidents, deaths from breast cancer and AIDS. And many of these errors could have been prevented with better information.

Confidentiality of patient records is at the forefront of PSI's mission. The organisation warrants that it will never disclose, share, or sell any identifiable patient information. It has taken many precautions to ensure the security of all clinical data passing over its network.

Leslie Versweyveld

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