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Tampa General’s new ‘command center’ cuts delays, saving millions

The hospital joins with GE Healthcare to create a new system that tracks patients at every stop in their care, and intervenes when necessary.

TAMPA — Tampa General Hospital has become one of only four health care institutions in the world to open its own high-tech “mission control” command center, using artificial intelligence to predict and improve patient care.

The hospital announced the milestone Tuesday, joining with GE Healthcare to open and staff the 8,000-square-foot center, to be known as CareComm. The center will use data to track patients at every stop of their care, streamlining operations and eliminating the chronic delays so common at hospitals. As a result, officials said, patients will receive better care and the hospital expects to save millions.

Tampa General joins Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and Humber River Hospital in Toronto as users of this kind of technology. But it will be the first such center in Florida and the Southeast.

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“We’re taking hundreds of thousands of data points and turning it into knowledge and turning that into action,” said John Couris, the Tampa General CEO. “It’s making us think differently about health care and therefore act differently. We’re seeing improvements already.”

The center opened in a temporary space inside the Davis Island-based hospital in December. Since then, Couris said the 30-plus member coordination team has helped save nearly $10 million in costs and reduced wait times for patients by nearly half a day.

It works by tracking patients as they are admitted to the hospital, helping predict “bottlenecks” before they happen and streamline care.

As the only Level 1 trauma center in the region, the 1,010-bed Tampa General sees an average of 95,000 patients a year in its emergency room alone. So far, the hospital has tracked a 5 percent reduction in readmission rates since the CareComm center has been operating.

“We’re making an impact,” Couris said. “It actually works. It’s helping us on our mission to be the safest and most innovative academic health care institution in the country.”

Large monitors line the walls of the CareComm center on the second floor of the hospital. Some are touch screen. Others chart patients’ care as they are admitted and transferred to specialty units. Some screens track patients who have high-risk illnesses, like sepsis, to help avoid problems, and the medications patients are prescribed after surgery.

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In instances where patients are waiting on lab results before they can be discharged, a member of the CareComm team can step in, see what’s holding up those results, and deliver them if needed. The team, currently made up of Tampa General employees and GE engineers, tracks data entered into the system by hospital clinical staff — from nurses to assistants and physicians.

Mounted screen tiles keeps track of patients health care at Tampa General Hospital's new CareComm center on Tuesday.
Mounted screen tiles keeps track of patients health care at Tampa General Hospital's new CareComm center on Tuesday. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]

Tampa General has invested about $13 million in the project, including $2.5 million in building a designated space for the coordination team in the hospital. The TGH charitable foundation donated about $1 million toward the cost. Couris anticipates the center will reduce costs over time to the tune of $60 million to $80 million.

On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis toured the new facility, alongside Mary Mayhew, the newly named secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, and a half-dozen other state, regional and local officials.

DeSantis said the system will ensure that patients who need hospital care will get it, and that those who need other levels of care are directed to it properly.

“If you told me we were at the Kennedy Space Center in there," he said, "I probably would have believed you.”


CareComm | By the Numbers:

8,000: Square feet inside Tampa General Hospital

38: LCD screens that make up the GE Healthcare “Wall Of Analytics”

30+: Tampa General employees working in CareComm

10+: Hospital departments represented inside CareComm

20: Artificial Intelligence apps

$10 Million: Money saved so far thanks to streamlined patient care since December 2018