News | January 10, 2008

Washington Hospital Launches Landmark Emergency Medicine Project

January 11, 2008 - Washington Hospital Center took a major step forward this week in the federally funded Project ER One initiative as it unveiled innovative technologies and design solutions in its Emergency Department to improve patient care, and prepare the hospital for mass casualty events in the nation’s capital.

This marks the first time that many of these ER One concepts, which are designed to improve infection control and increase surge capacity have been used in an emergency care setting.

The new features include:
- Negative pressure isolation rooms to prevent spread of infectious agents
- Oversized rooms that can be used for up to three patients
- Clinical lab space in the Emergency Department to expedite blood tests
- Rooms that can be sterilized with vaporized hydrogen peroxide (Steris Inc.)
- Walls made of Corian to provide a cleaner environment (DuPont)
- Surfaces coated with antimicrobial material to reduce infections (Agion)
- Newly designed nursing stations to improve workflow (Herman Miller)
- Ultra wide band tracking technology for easy location of equipment (Parco)
- A communications system to provide better relay of patient data (Cisco)
- Technology that provides staff with faster access to patient information (Microsoft)

Washington Hospital Center will study the use of these innovations, which draw on the concepts developed for ER One, to determine if they would be valuable in an all-risks ready emergency care facility.

“This is a pivotal project in the field of emergency medicine,” said Mark S. Smith, M.D., chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Washington Hospital Center and director of the ER One Institute. “We have spent years developing concepts for a unique facility that is capable of handling patients from a mass casualty situation, such as a biological attack, radiation explosion, or a natural pandemic, but will also be of great value for patient care on a day-to-day basis. Now we will be able to find out just how well these concepts work. This is a test bed for assessing the benefit of new technology.”

However Dr. Smith said while this is an important step, much more needs to be done to achieve the goal of building ER One at Washington Hospital Center.

“We appreciate the federal funds and donations from our partners that allow us to put these technologies into practice, but we still need to build a full ER One,” he said.

ER One, when built, will be a fully scalable, all-risks ready emergency care facility that serves as a hospital emergency department during daily operations and is optimized to handle the medical consequences of acts of terrorism, national disasters, and epidemics.

The ER One concept was developed by a team led by Dr. Smith at the hospital in 1999. The vision for building the facility took on greater urgency following the events of 9/11 and the anthrax attacks of 2001. Washington Hospital Center was one of the few hospitals in the country to play a major role in response to both events. The hospital was the destination for all critically burned casualties from the attack on the Pentagon and a month later treated hundreds of patients who feared possible anthrax exposure after anthrax was found on Capitol Hill and in a local postal facility. However the $75 million in federal funding needed to help build ER One has not been made available.

Washington Hospital Center has spearheaded efforts to improve the national capitol region’s ability to respond to mass casualty incidents. Together with a coalition of local health care providers, it received a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to jointly develop a coordinated response among D.C. healthcare providers to natural disasters or terrorist attacks.

For more information: www.whcenter.org

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