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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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New Technology Removes Uncertainly for Family Members of Surgical Patients

October 6, 2010

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A new computerized, operating room control system at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center allows family members and friends to follow the progress of their loved ones through surgery. “It’s great to know how the surgery is coming along and that he’s doing okay,” said Jerry Osborn, a friend of a Veteran who recently underwent surgery. PHOTO: Mark Penner, M.H.A., Administrative Fellow.

HOUSTON – In July, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) introduced a computerized, operating room control system called OR•Control. One feature of the new technology allows family members and friends to follow the progress of their loved ones through surgery.

“It’s great to know how the surgery is coming along and that he’s doing okay,” said Jerry Osborn, a friend of a Veteran who recently underwent surgery. “I like that you can see when they are going in and coming out of surgery, without pulling the doctor or nurse away from patients.”

The system’s goal is to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of surgeries by coordinating and supporting members of the medical team. Using real-time location tracking technology, such as ultrasound, the control system automatically tracks and displays the status of all personnel, activities, and equipment related to a particular surgical procedure and then, continuously updates the facility’s surgical schedule.

The system creates a simple way for clinical staff to communicate in coordinating and prioritizing their activities to maintain schedules. This coordinated care and communication results in more timely operations and better results for Veterans undergoing surgery. Information displays and alerts are available throughout the facility and remotely via e-mail, cell phones, and other Web-enabled devices. Another important benefit of the system is that family members and friends are kept informed.

“This control system moves our operating room from after-the-fact, manual tracking processes of the 1970s into the 21st century,” said David H. Berger, M.D., M.H.C.M., Operative Care Line executive. “When schedules change, it is difficult to immediately calculate and then convey cascading effects to everyone who needs to know. This lack of real-time communication results in frustrated staff, late schedules, and unnecessary stress for Veterans and their family members.”

When delays do occur, the system automatically adjusts the scheduled start time of the effected procedure, as well as calculates the ripple effect of these changes on the rest of the day's schedule. The impact on staff and anesthesia assignments, future procedure times, and use of equipment are all determined automatically. Those changes are immediately displayed for everyone to see. Ultimately, the system enables the facility to increase throughput and provide every Veteran with the medical care they need faster.

Seated in the waiting room near the operating room, Osborn kept a close eye on the OR•Control system monitor and his friend’s progress. “It keeps me more at ease, having this information and being informed,” he said.