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IBM, UPMC Partner On Hospital 'SmartRoom'

SmartRoom systems, now deployed at two University of Pittsburgh Medical Center hospitals, identifies clinicians, providing real-time access to patient information and workflow tools based on role and location of caregiver.

IBM and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which are in the midst of an 8-year relationship to transform UPMC's IT infrastructure, have unveiled a new joint effort to make hospital rooms nationwide "smarter."

The two companies have formed a new business relationship to offer to non-UPMC hospitals SmartRoom technology that was developed by UPMC.

Under the deal, both IBM and UPMC will invest in the new SmartRoom company through a $50 million co-development fund set up in 2005 when IBM and UPMC entered an 8-year relationship to "transform" UPMC's IT infrastructure, which includes ambitious projects such as consolidating and virtualizing UPMC's IT environment.

While UPMC officials won't disclose how much money has been invested into SmartRoom so far, the funding is the largest investment from the joint IBM/UPMC fund to date.

Under the pact, the SmartRoom subsidiary is wholly owned by UPMC but IBM will be the exclusive sales channel, offering SmartRoom configurations, integration and related services to non-UPMC hospital customers nationwide for their facilities.

SmartRoom, which is based on a services-oriented architecture, has been tested and used so far in patient units at two of UPMC's 20 hospitals, UPMC ShadySide and UPMC Montefiore in Pittsburgh.

The SmartRoom location-based system, which has been under development at UPMC for the last four years, automatically provides nurses, doctors and other pertinent hospital workers wearing small ultrasound tags with real-time patient information relevant to the staffer's role with a patient when approaching the patient's bed in a hospital room.

The SmartRoom technology also automatically organizes and prioritizes tasks clinicians need to provide to the individual patient.

IBM will offer hospital customers with "its expertise with different [e-health record systems] vendors in integrating" the SmartRoom technology with whatever digital patient record and other clinical systems a hospital may have installed or plans to use, said David Sharbaugh, founder and president of the SmartRoom entity.

SmartRoom joins a list of other start-up companies launched in recent years by UPMC to commercialize health IT related technology innovations developed at UPMC.

Other UPMC companies include Via Oncology, which sells UPMC developed clinical decision support tools to cancer doctors, and most notably Stentor, a digital medical imaging technology company that was sold in 2005 to Philips for about $280 million.

Through the ultrasound tags provided by Sonitor Technologies, SmartRoom recognizes clinicians and other hospital workers when they walk into patients rooms.

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