As the 2007 edition of the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS; Chicago) annual meeting got underway on Sunday in a resurgent New Orleans, many companies used the event, the largest of its kind in the sector, to unveil new products and initiatives that have the potential to transform the way that healthcare is delivered.

Cardinal Health (Dublin, Ohio) used the event — being held in the massive Ernest N. Morial Convention Center through Thursday — to launch a new point-of-care (POC) offering designed to help hospitals reduce medication errors.

For the first time, the company said, nurses and other clinicians will be able to use one application to monitor orders for their patients, determine the location of medications, pre-program pumps for IV infusions, verify the accuracy of medications administered and document to the hospital's existing IT systems.

The company said this system is made possible by a combination of its Care Fusion bedside verification application, MedStation units from Pyxis (San Diego) and system IV pumps from Alaris (Hampshire, UK).

Cardinal touted itself as the "first and only company who can offer a complete suite of automated dispensing cabinets, smart infusion pumps and bedside bar code verification systems, and have them communicate seamlessly with one another."

Speaking from the floor of the convention center, Jim Nuckles, VP of marketing for Cardinal, told Medical Device Daily that the beauty of the new system is its ability to interface with technology from all the major IT vendors.

He also pointed out another key to the technology: "Not only do you have to integrate information systems, you have to integrate devices. You could have an information system product, but it's not going to help you that much if doesn't connect to all the devices. What we're providing is the actual devices … and linking them all together because that's what the nurse is using."

Nuckles added: "We're managing the information, but we're also managing the physical product flow and the actual devices and I think that's the difference between what we're doing and what most of the players at HIMSS are doing."

The new POC technology also allows clinical data to flow from the hospital pharmacy information system through a single Cardinal interface. The system will also support reporting to other information technology systems in the hospital.

"Our new point-of-care technology will help hospitals solve some of their most difficult problems in improving patient safety, and will make the medication workflow for clinicians simpler and safer by eliminating many of the hand-offs that lead to mistakes," said Dwight Winstead, group president of Clinical Technologies and Services for Cardinal. "In addition, it will allow hospitals to leverage their current and future investments in Pyxis, Alaris and Care Fusion products."

Nuckles said that the company is in the process of setting up testing sites for the interface system.

The company said it also launched Integrated Medication Solutions for more efficient purchase and management through the entire hospital medication use process.

Initially, the company's solutions will be targeted to Integrated Delivery Networks and large hospitals, it said.

As for the tone of the convention itself, Nuckles said that there is a buzz in the air, particularly with respect to President George Bush's oft-expressed wish for increased use of healthcare information technology (HIT). He said that HIT is "in a boom cycle. There's so much interest in it." He also said that the city of New Orleans appears to be on the mend, and that from his perspective at the convention center and in the French Quarter, things appeared to be back to relative normalcy.

In other news from HIMSS:

StatCom (Alpharetta, Georgia) reported launch of its patient flow logistics and tracking software developed to improve patient throughput and capacity management hospital wide. The company said this software enables hospitals to anticipate demand and manage bottlenecks more effectively.

"The right technology solution can act as a leverage point for hospitals that are struggling to solve capacity and utilization challenges. The solution must go beyond simply providing visibility," said Eric Morgan, president/CEO of StatCom. "It must provide real-time tools to effectively manage the flow of patients through the hospital. StatCom's hospital-wide patient flow logistics and tracking system does just that."

StatCom software is designed to coordinate patients and resources from admission through discharge, including bed management, environmental services, transportation, patient LOS management, OR patient flow, ED patient flow, and discharge coordination.

The software informs physicians, staff and family as to the location and status of the patient throughout care progression and provides real-time tools to manage that flow within and between departments, StatCom said.

Royal Philips Electronics (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) reported that it is highlighting several advancements in healthcare IT solutions at the meeting.

Hospitals rely on data from disparate systems, from patient demographics to discharge notes and lab results to vital signs. Philips said it can address these challenges through its new IntelliVue Clinical Information Portfolio (ICIP) Critical Care, a clinical decision support tool used by clinicians to support patient care.

A platform built to support future applications beyond critical care, ICIP is the evolution of CareVue Chart. It centralizes patient data from the bedside and core hospital information systems so clinicians have access, anywhere, to the information they need to make crucial care decisions. Vital signs, bedside device data, labs, pathology reports, medication orders and planned interventions, among other data, are included in the patient flowsheet, helping to eliminate transcription errors and time lost recording and re-recording data by hand, the company said.

Philips has introduced new networked transport monitor/defibrillator capabilities for in-hospital acute setting use. The HeartStart MRx monitor/defibrillator now combines two devices into one, for wireless transport, emergency department overflow and cardiac departmental needs.

The HeartStart MRx will now stream the patient's waveforms and vitals information in real-time to Philips IntelliVue Information Center.