USF Health IS team wins GE Customer Innovation Award

A fairly simple, straightforward idea has resulted in a time-saving, cost-saving and waste-saving initiative that has garnered applause and rounds of thanks from clinical teams at the USF Health Ambulatory Surgery Center, as well as earn an award from the international conglomerate GE.

Vivian Riggs and Andrew Stella-Vega, both in the USF Health Information Systems department, designed an online preadmission testing history and physical form that not only provides pertinent information ahead of scheduled surgeries, but the information perfectly interfaces with existing patient record and scheduling software (GE’s Perioperative).

Andrew Stella-Vega (left) and Vivian Riggs earned GE’s top award.

This integration has several benefits, chief among them saving time for both patients and nurse schedulers. In addition, the new program – with the checks-and-balances aspect of its targeted medical questions – means fewer same-day cancellations, which cause holes in the surgery schedule that could otherwise be filled with another patient and, many times, waste supplies that are opened in the prepared operating room but need to be discarded because they are exposed and no longer usable.

“The pre-admission testing online health history has improved workflow, reduced waste, and improved continuity,” said Adele Emery, RN, director of the USF Health Ambulatory Surgery Center (ASC).

“The development of the USF online patient health history questionnaire is a major improvement in the preoperative evaluation process,” said Ward Longbottom, MD, who has been the co-medical director and director of anesthesiology at the USF Morsani surgery center since its opening and has been instrumental in the development of the online questionnaire. “It is highly efficient and cost effective along with being a huge patient satisfier. No more lengthy  telephone assessments or inconvenient unnecessary preoperative visits. With the online health history, we’ve seen decreases and hope to eliminate the number of phone calls to patients just to get their health histories. And the ease of integrating this information into our electronic patient records means it can be easily reviewed by the entire health team instantaneously.”

With the new program, patients fill out the easy-to-use, secure online form (created by application developer Stella-Vega) at their convenience prior to surgery. Through an interface program (created by Perioperative System Manager Riggs) the information carries over into the patients’ EMR and the ASC’s scheduling.

GE’s first-place award went to the USF Health IS team.

Previous to the new program, lengthy phone calls between nurse coordinators and patients, excess paperwork in the world of electronic medical records, and miscues in communication between patient and medical personnel were the norm, Riggs said.

“This program definitely streamlined the process for the ASC,” Riggs said. “Preadmission testing nursing labor hours have been cut by 66 percent for patients opting to use the online form. Anesthesiologists reported only positive outcomes and improvement in their patient workflow. And patients seem to really like the process, too. The feedback has been great.”

Stella-Vega said that the next step is to build the tracking programs.

“We’re building the business and number-crunching side of the program now,” he said. “But it’s pretty much unlimited what we can do with this.”

“Vivian and Andrew created a very innovative solution to a basic need at the ASC,” said Sidney Fernandes, interim chief information officer and director of the Application Development for USF Health Information Systems. “This is an ideal project on several levels: it showed good teamwork, it is patient-centered, and it offers great system and workflow improvements.”

The integrated form is one of several projects the USF Health IS department has spearheaded that has benefitted clinical and academic departments throughout USF Health, Fernandes said.

How unique is this new program? Two things hint that the program is significant.

First, Riggs and Stella-Vega earned GE’s 2011 Customer Innovation Award for their work. GE Healthcare provides the awards to recognize organizations that have implemented its GE Centricity Perioperative software in ways that result in marked improvements in clinical efficiency and financial performance. They accepted the first-place award at the GE Healthcare Perioperative conference in early September.

And second, Riggs has received calls from several hospitals and medical facilities asking about the program.

“We built this program from the ground up with input from our anesthesiologist expert, Dr. Ward Longbottom, the Preadmission Testing Nurses, and GE” Riggs said. “Paperwork has begun for the patent.”

Story by Sarah A. Worth, photos by Eric Younghas, USF Health Office of Communications.