College of American Pathologists
Printable Version






October 2008

Raymond D. Aller, MD and Hal Weiner

bullet Biovigilance network: ready, set, pilot test

Patient safety may get a boost next year with the pilot launch of the first-ever U.S. biovigilance network. The nationwide network will collect and analyze data to identify trends and best practices to reduce adverse reactions and incidents associated with blood transfusions and related biological therapies.

“We don’t have a system like that, and there are so many things that we can learn from our own data,” says Barbee Whitaker, PhD. Dr. Whitaker is director of data and special programs for the AABB, which has spearheaded development of the network through a joint effort with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nine hospitals will participate in pilot testing of the system. For privacy reasons, only the participating institutions can disclose their identities, says Dr. Whitaker, noting that the participants represent hospitals of varying sizes and specialties from across the country.

The eagerly awaited pilot, which was slated to get underway last spring but was delayed because of scheduling issues, will provide a hemovigilance system to participating hospitals. The system eventually will be expanded to include tissue and cellular therapy transplantation. The ultimate goal, accor­ding to a written statement from the AABB, is to enhance patient safety, make better use of blood and biological therapies, and reduce health care costs by eliminating waste and errors.

Staff at the pilot test sites will input data on adverse events into an online system that will be managed through the National Healthcare Safety Network, which operates under the direction of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Entering data into the online network should be fairly easy, explains Dr. Whitaker. Participants register on the NHSN’s Web site and then log onto the system. Users input data through drop-down and call boxes.

Firewalls initially may hinder some of the pilot test sites as they download or upload data, Dr. Whitaker notes. But, she adds, “while some of the hospitals may encounter them, they will be easily managed by our staff at the CDC because they’ve been through this process before.”

Through the pilot, the National Healthcare Safety Network will test whether definitions for adverse reactions established by the AABB and CDC are understood and reported consistently. “What is a little bit complicated is how you would code an adverse reaction, or how you would decide between TRALI and TACO,” says Dr. Whitaker, referring to transfusion-related acute lung injury and transfusion-associated circulatory overload. Training on the network will include examples of different types of reactions and indicate how to distinguish one from the other, she adds.

Hospitals, in general, are especially interested in integrating their current data-collection systems with the biovigilance network, Dr. Whitaker says. “Many hospitals have a quality system that they enter their data into already, so that would mean that they wouldn’t have to do double data entry,” she explains.

The AABB has met with various software companies to investigate ways to interface hospitals’ data-collection systems with the network. “We’ve already had many of the university hospital systems and other quality systems very interested in building an interface between the two,” Dr. Whitaker says. “That’s one of the things we’re really excited about, and we’re talking to the computer software developers already. We really see that as key to getting all the hospitals [to participate].”

The pilot will, in part, evaluate how well such external systems integrate with the network, which is being run on the backbone of the NHSN’s system. The latter is used to collect data on nosocomial infections, says James AuBuchon, MD. Dr. AuBuchon is chairman of the biovigilance network’s recipient system working group, which represents the hemovigilance part of the network.

Once input, data on adverse reactions will be housed on secure servers at the CDC and then analyzed, most likely annually, by a committee formed by the CDC and the task force that has overseen development of the network, Dr. AuBuchon says.

A unique feature of the hemovigilance network, he adds, will be the ability of hospitals to benchmark their data against that of all others in the system or against those in a particular region or size category. “I think this will be a very important feature,” he stresses. “All the other hemovigilance systems in the world only offer a national high-level analysis. They don’t allow the individual hospitals to go in and look and see how they’re doing.” Participating hospitals will be able to retrieve such data using report writers and other statistical tools already available within the NHSN system, Dr. AuBuchon adds.

Training for the pilot test of the network is scheduled to begin in December, with the pilot phase lasting at least through the first half of next year. Several large hospitals, including Johns Hopkins and the Cleveland Clinic, which perform upwards of 50,000 transfusions a year, have expressed interest in participating in the biovigilance network once the pilot has been completed, Dr. Whitaker says. Of the approximately 4,000 hospitals in the United States that are doing transfusions, Dr. Whitaker predicts the network can obtain the participation of 500 during its first year of operation.

More than 45 hospitals, representing over 20 percent of the entire U.S. transfusion volume, have already agreed to participate in the network, says Dr. AuBuchon. “We have been overwhelmed by the positive response.”

bullet Aspyra to market billing products from Data Strategies

Aspyra and Data Strategies have struck a deal under which Aspyra will represent Data Strategies’ Elligence billing product line nationwide to new and existing Aspyra customers.

The nonexclusive agreement is specific to Data Strategies’ Elligence practice-management billing software and its integrated modules and components.

“With Data Strategies’ Elligence, we can now offer new and existing customers a comprehensive integrated solution for the entire workflow process, not only enabling improved clinical efficiencies, but also quicker claim reimbursement and reduction in lost charges for the facility,” says Ade Lawal, vice president of strategy and business development for Aspyra.

Aspyra, Circle No. 186
Data Strategies, Circle No. 198

bullet Meditech supports Sato bar-code printer

Meditech has integrated several of its solutions with the GL408e bar-code label printer from Sato.

The GL408e can be used, without additional software or programming, with select functionality in Meditech’s laboratory and microbiology software, enterprise medical record, and pharmacy and radiology applications. The unit can also print from Meditech’s command line.

The GL408e is a rugged 203 DPI printer. It supports the SatoNet Connect printer-management tool and can be upgraded to print and encode radio-frequency identification labels.

Meditech, Circle No. 187
Sato, Circle No. 188

bullet Sunquest releases new ­version of CoPathPlus

Sunquest Information Systems has introduced CoPathPlus v4.0 anatomic pathology software.

The new version can be integrated with Sunquest’s laboratory information system and supports an add-on module that can be integrated with Mtuitive xPert for Pathology software for structured data capture and synoptic reporting.

Among the other new features of version 4.0 are the ability to associate specimen and procedure billing charges with a pathologist or the primary cytology reviewer; incorporation of 2D bar codes onto slides and cassettes; updates to inbound, outbound, and billing interfaces; and better control of password requirements.

Sunquest Information Systems,
Circle No. 189

bullet SCC gets FDA approval for upgrade to SoftBank II

SCC Soft Computer has received FDA market approval for its SoftBank II, version 23.2, centralized transfusion service management system.

New to SoftBank II via version 23.2 is the ability to print ISBT-compliant labels for modified blood products.

SCC Soft Computer, Circle No. 190

bullet New organization to study cell phone use in health care

The Medical Records Institute has unveiled the Center for Cell Phone Applications in Healthcare, or C-PAHC, a membership-based organization that will study and advocate the advancement of cell phone applications in health care.

“The new capabilities of modern cell phones, smart phones, PDAs, and other mobile devices are creating extraordinary new possibilities for health care,” says C. Peter Waegemann, executive director of C-PAHC.

“C-PAHC will become the international center and marketplace where interested parties can learn what is going on in the field of cell phones in health care,” he continues. “C-PAHC will identify applications for which solutions are currently developed and available, as well as those under development. In face-to-face meetings and conference calls, it will provide a neutral platform for developers, health care planners, health informatics professionals, health care professionals, and others to discuss common interests.”

Additional information and membership applications are available at

bullet Practice Fusion provides free academic program

Practice Fusion, which offers free Web-based physician practice solutions, has launched its academic program for medical universities, students, and residents.

This segment of the medical community is overlooked by electronic medical record companies, says Ryan Howard, chairman and CEO of Practice Fusion. The academic program “offers a no-cost opportunity to be emerged into cutting-edge technologies, empowering medical students and residents to be fluent with technology and, ultimately, better prepared when they graduate,” he adds.

The University of West Florida, Pensacola, recently selected the academic program as the electronic health record for study by students enrolled in its Introduction to Medical Informatics course.

The academic program is available at

Practice Fusion, Circle No. 191

bullet Nuance offering upgrade to Dragon Medical

Nuance Communications has released Dragon Medical 10, the latest version of its real-time, medical, speech-recognition software.

The product offers new medical vocabularies, improved integration with electronic medical record systems, enhanced regional accent support, and customizable commands, such as voice shortcuts.

Dragon Medical 10 is part of Nuance’s Dragon Naturally Speaking line of speech-recognition software.

Nuance Communications, Circle No. 192

bullet Dairyland changes name and purchases company

The hospital information systems company Dairyland Healthcare Solutions has changed its name to Healthland and acquired Advanced Professional Software. APS markets financial and administrative systems for community hospitals.

Healthland announced that it will support existing APS systems users and market its clinical system to APS’ clients.

Healthland changed its name because, other than in the Midwest, it “did not bring visions of health IT ... and software,” says Healthland CEO James Burgess.

Healthland, Circle No. 193

bullet Company contracts

Mediware Information Systems has contracted for its BloodSafe blood bank solution with Shands at UF, Gainesville, Fla., an academic medical center affiliated with the University of Florida.

Mediware Information Systems, Circle No. 194

The state of Minnesota has contracted with the Covisint subsidiary of Compuware Corp. to build its statewide health records network.

Compuware Corp., Circle No. 195

QuadraMed has signed a $15.8 million contract to install software for an electronic health record platform at the five hospitals of Daughters of Charity Health System, Los Altos Hills, Calif.

QuadraMed, Circle No. 196

Clínica Las Condes, Santiago, Chile, has contracted to be the first hospital site in Latin America to implement a suite of Cerner Millennium health care information technology solutions.

Cerner Corp., Circle No. 197

Dr. Aller is director of automated disease surveillance and team lead for disaster preparedness Focus B, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. He can be reached at Hal Weiner is president of Weiner Consulting Services, LLC, Florence, Ore. He can be reached at