The U.S. Army has begun acquiring new, streamlined operating room suites that developers say could make the purchase of complex medical equipment more efficient and the delivery of care more effective.
“It’s going to make it easier for the surgeons and other clinicians to do what they need to do in the operating room,” said Andrew Wechter, chief of the medical capital equipment division at U.S. Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support.
The new “integrated” operating rooms consolidate equipment and pull together a range of patient information from throughout the medical facility. The Army is installing units at 15 hospitals covering 55 operating rooms, and Congress has allotted $36 million to get the operating rooms installed in most Army medical facilities over the next three to five years, Wechter said.
A conventional operating room may be littered with stand-alone instruments such as anesthesia machines, lights and monitors. The result is often a tangled web of wires, with operators controlling each device individually.
In an integrated room, devices are interconnected, getting rid of much of the clutter. All the mechanics of the room can be operated from a single control panel, which makes procedures run smoother.
The integrated units also will simplify acquisitions and possibly save money in the outfitting of medical suites, Wechter said.
“With a traditional operating room, customers would have to make a bunch of separate, individual purchases,” he said. “Now a lot of that can be pursued under a single contract.”
In the past, military hospitals have purchased operating room technologies through open market procurements, a process that could be complex and time-consuming. Contracting should be simplified with the purchase of the new consolidated rooms, which can be bought wholly equipped with turnkey installation from a single vendor under a single contract.
Three contracts have been awarded so far under the multiple award contract program to American Medical Depot, Karl Storz and Steris Corp., with individual contract maximum dollar values not to exceed $400 million.
The predicted high volume of purchases should further help to keep costs down and simplify acquisitions, Wechter said.
While still a relatively new technology, integrated operating room suites are making some headway in the commercial marketplace.
“DoD is right there in the middle of the curve,” Wechter said.
In addition to Army acquisitions, Navy and Air Force planners have said they will purchase the integrated operating rooms, although details have yet to be announced.
“The exact dollars and when and where are all still up in the air,” Wechter said.
In addition to consolidating equipment in the operating room, the new integrated technology will draw together patient data from throughout hospital systems, an advancement that will make it possible for surgeons to get a full picture of a patient’s condition in a single, comprehensive interface.
“Having all the patient data available to the surgeon as he is working, and being able to put it up on monitors, that is really key,” Wechter said.