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Quick as a "Blnk"

New technology helps laboratorians share test results faster. | by Amanda Koehler

Laboratory data is undoubtedly important to patient diagnostics -- some 70-80 percent of medical decisions are based upon laboratory testing results.

But what if those results aren't being presented to the physician quickly enough? This could result in misdiagnosis and have potentially dangerous effects for the patient.

Efficient patient results are key, and patient monitoring technology can help keep all parties--laboratory professionals, physicians and patients--in the loop. Blnk technology, being marketed by Rhemisphere LLC, will ensure physicians get important laboratory data in a timely fashion.

Stumbling Upon Blnk

Marcelo Cardarelli, MD, MPH, assistant professor of Surgery and Pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of Maryland, Baltimore, was busy doing research with two colleagues on the human-human and human-computer interaction of peers, residents, fellows and allied health professionals in a pediatric clinical care unit.

In the 2-year span of their research, they found a significant portion of time spent by healthcare professionals was not at the patient's bedside but collecting information for the morning and evening rounds.

"We also documented this data was repeated ad nauseam during those rounds, even when it was pretty irrelevant to the care of a particular patient," Dr. Cardarelli added.

Dr. Cardarelli and his team concluded the electronic medical record was a great tool in the chronic/outpatient setting, but not as beneficial in the acute clinical setting. "The information was all there but the access and distribution was time consuming and prone to clinical errors," Dr. Cardarelli recalled.

"A new delivery tool was needed."

Yan Xiao, PhD, director, Patient Safety Research, Baylor Health Care System, Dallas, and Vinay Vaidya, MD, chief medical informatics officer, Phoenix Children's hospital, developed Blnk technology by designing "a set of simple tools retrieving the information while displaying it in a friendlier format for everyone to see," Dr. Cardarelli explained.

After a year of fine-tuning, the team came up with the idea of a bedside monitor fetching the data automatically. The technology attracted the attention of Henry R. Rossell Jr., CEO of Maryland startup Rhemisphere LLC, who signed an agreement to commercialize the system.

"In the critical care setting, moving with urgency is a given. Point-of-care decisions must be made 'in the blink of an eye,'" Rossell told ADVANCE. "[The Blnk system] provides data in a clear, usable and constantly updated format for the point-of-care team--and it does so instantaneously."

Assisting the Decoders

Blnk technology will obviously be helpful for physicians, cutting down on time-consuming data retrieval and, hopefully, human errors. But it is also a good tool for laboratorians.

The Blnk system links directly with the laboratory database and displays the latest results and trends for the most recent 48 hour period, Rossell explained.

"This enables staff, physicians and medical personnel to have up-to-the-minute lab results in a format similar to critical care monitors showing physiological vital signs," he added.
"Laboratory professionals are the decoders of the message. They analyze the samples and provide us with a wealth of information, most of it critical to the survival of the patients in critical care environments," Dr. Cardarelli stressed.

"Knowing the fruit of their labor is rapidly, efficiently and unambiguously delivered to the patient's bedside to be used in critical life-or-death decisions will be even more rewarding now."

The Future

The Blnk system, which is patent pending, has been used in the clinical setting at the University of Maryland.

Although the system is not yet for sale, a number of regional medical centers in the greater Baltimore/Washington, DC region have expressed interest in trying the system, Rossell said.

"Our goal is to make Blnk the standard of care for viewing laboratory data in the critical care setting. We plan to develop additional solutions providing specialized lab results related to specific disease states in the same clinically relevant format," Rossell noted.

"Our future family of Blnk products will provide more customized results for advanced disease states to provide lab results in a manner improving clinical outcomes and staff productivity."