Industrial Engineer Engineering and Management Solutions at Work

December 2012    |    Volume: 44    |    Number: 12

The member magazine of the Institute of Industrial and Engineers

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Emerging Technologies

Innovative tools of the trade 

Better for the brain

Healthcare is developing products and workflow solutions continually that reduce the cost of care while improving quality and patient outcomes. Developing tools and technology to facilitate real-time feedback delivery benefit the patient and help engage healthcare providers.

Neurosurgeons depend on feeding pre-procedure MRI data in their neuronavigation systems to guide accurate localization of the tumor for precise resection. Prior imaging data, although widely used, does not provide clinicians real-time feedback on resection as it does not take into account the brain shift that occurs during and post-surgery. Henry Ford Hospital is among a handful of the nation's medical centers utilizing the latest technology, a Philips Healthcare iMRI that allows surgery to be performed with concurrent intraoperative image guidance in both awake and asleep patients.

The iMRI (intraoperative MRI) has been designed to function in an operating room environment to provide surgeons the ability to track the pathway of surgical instruments as they pass through the brain tissue and correct the trajectory path from real-time feedback. Improving the extent of resection decreases patient morbidity rates, reduces future surgeries and minimizes further radiation exposure. Implementing  an iMRI in an operating room setting requires doctors and healthcare engineers to evaluate many factors such as magnetic field strength (which ranges from 0.5T to 3T), ergonomics of magnet reach, patient positioning, safety regulations, interface with existing navigation systems and magnet functionality for inpatients who do not need surgery.

Another innovative tool is the McKesson Anesthesia-Rx cart, which automates the medication dispensing process in the operating room for patients undergoing neurosurgery and image-guided interventions. Built on a cart with an attached touch-screen monitor and configurable capacity drawers, Anesthesia-Rx reduces time to dispense multiple medications for a patient through its multitouch dispensing feature. Using the process steps to indicate that medication is stocked, dispensed or unused helps pharmacies have real-time inventory control from the operating room to optimize inventory.

Unique features like a scan function for restocking and a color-coding system improve patient safety and reduce the risk of medication errors. Additional features include flexible workflow capability to count medications after dispensing, a built-in management and documentation function that improves pharmacy processing, and software upgrades that enable hospitals to boost the tool’s functionality without the cost of adding or replacing equipment.

Innovative technologies are changing the delivery of healthcare. As demonstrated by these two tools, functional optimization is achieved through collaboration and ownership from end users to develop patient-centered workflows that eliminate inefficiencies and enhance quality and operational key performance indicators. 

Vanda Ametlli is a management engineer in radiology at Henry Ford Hospital. She received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in industrial engineering from Wayne State University. She currently serves as IIE Great Lakes Region vice president and as a blog contributor for IIE’s Young Professionals Group.