New technology improves surgery experience at SVMC

BENNINGTON — Much like the departure and arrival screens at an airport, Perioperative Services at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC) now has TV monitors on the unit and in the waiting room. The monitors, which track a patient’s location throughout the patient’s surgery experience, are part of a total surgical automation system implemented this year.

The system is from Picis, (pronounced Pisces, like the astrological sign) a provider of computer-related systems for healthcare organizations. The focus of the Picis information systems is to aid healthcare providers in delivering quality patient care in the most complex areas of a healthcare facility – areas such as the O.R.

“Basically, the monitors are a great communication tool for staff, our patients and their families,” stated Cathy Fairbanks, director of perioperative services. “Besides helping us track productivity and patient flow, the system can help lessen a family member’s anxiety when a loved one is having surgery. Perioperative staff and family members can follow a patient’s progress as it happens.”

“What’s great about the system,” said Rita Reed, SVMC’s project manager for the Picis installation, “is that the information is posted is in real time. People viewing one of the monitors do not have to guess how accurate the information is. They know where a patient is at all times. Our system notes such key intervals as when a patient arrives for surgery, when they enter the O.R., when they are taken to recovery, and when they are awake and ready to see family members.”

“This way, a surgeon knows if his next patient has arrived or a family member in the waiting room can tell if they have enough time to run down to the café for a cup of coffee without worrying they’ll miss the doctor,” added Fairbanks.

The system is also designed to help O.R. staff with patient flow, efficiency, and scheduling. What the system doesn’t do, according to Fairbanks, is replace the one-to-one communication between a patient or a family member with their surgeon or nurse.

“The system is not meant to replace communication with the medical staff,” stated Fairbanks, “but rather to enhance it.”

Family members in the waiting room can look at the color-coded monitor anytime while they’re waiting to see a surgery’s progress. For example, green means the patient is in the O.R. and pink means the patient is in Recovery.

Added Reed, “When a family sees an icon of a face next to a patient’s name, they know that the surgery is done and a doctor or nurse is on the way to speak with them. It’s a clear indication that the patient is awake and ready to see visitors."

“Confidentiality is maintained,” stated Fairbanks, “because we do not display any private information on the monitor in the waiting room, such as a patient’s name or what surgery they are having.”

The monitors in the staff area also aid surgeons in evaluating whether or not they are scheduling their time and the time of the operating rooms appropriately. “The system in no way dictates to a surgeon how long he or she should be taking with a particular patient,” said Fairbanks.

“What it does help with, however, is discovering whether or not we are scheduling the right amount of time for particular types of surgeries and if we are scheduling the operating rooms in the most patient-friendly way.

“Obviously, we don’t want someone who was scheduled for 9 a.m. surgery waiting until 10 a.m. because we didn’t schedule enough time for the surgery before his. It’s a winning situation for our patients, our staff and the hospital.”

The system also aids with tracking requirements for state and federal regulators and provides reports and trending information to staff. SVMC went live with the Picis total perioperative automation mid-January and has been evaluating and tweaking the system since then.

“We can tailor it to the needs of our patients and our staff," said Reed. “The flexibility gives us the opportunity to keep improving the way we deliver the quality care SVMC is already known for.”

SVMC is a part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care, a community-based, not-for-profit health system that exists solely for the benefit of the communities it serves. To find out more, visit

Pictured standing in front of the OR patient tracking board left to right, front row; Patricia Salsburg, Rita Reed, PICIS project manager, Jane Dozois, Ruth Metcalfe, back row; Catharine Fairbanks, director of periop services, and Jennifer Brophy.