New ‘mission control’ hub makes Gig Harbor the nerve center of hospital system

Eighteen screens light up a wall in the front a glass-paneled room.

Numbers strewn across the screens count bed capacity, needed procedures and patient wait time, while physicians and nurses monitor computers containing information on a patient’s care or a hospital’s staffing schedule.

It’s Chi Franciscan Health’s new “mission control” hub, and it makes Gig Harbor the center of the universe, at least for the system’s eight regional hospitals.

The Gig Harbor hub is the first in the state and fifth in the world to consolidate operational information for a hospital system. The new technology pulls data from the health system’s eight hospitals across Washington to streamline bed flow and treat patients as soon as possible.

The 5,000-square-foot center is at 4700 Point Fosdick Drive, in a building that also serves Gig Harbor’s St. Anthony hospital. It flags delays and prioritizes the highest-need patients. Mission control also will take a “bird eye’s view” of the hospitals and spot trends to find the bottlenecks.

“If we’ve noticed in the system that X is a pinch point, we have the opportunity to address that and see in real time to take action,” said Matt Metsker, the hub director.

The goal is faster and better care.

The program’s medical director, Dr. Jessica Schlicher, believes the centralized data mean nurses spend more time with the patient and less time pushing to get the patient a service, scan or procedure.

“We want them at that bedside,” Schlicher said. “It’s remarkable how much of a difference it makes.”

Each one of the “tiles” on the mission control screens focuses on a piece of a patient’s time in the hospital:

One predicts historical trends for staff, so when a summer music festival comes to town, the hospitals are staffed for increased admissions.

An Excel-like chart looks at capacity across all the hospitals by ward, counting those available, staffed and expected to open soon.

In three categories, “Care Progression” screens look at all the scans or X-Rays, services and procedures that need to be completed and ranks each patient by priority and time waited. If a patient has waited too long, the listing turns red.

A “boarder” tile breaks down patients by ward, how long they have been since admittance, and if the bed needs cleaning.

Transfers are ranked by priority and wait time.

With the priority of patients getting needed care as soon as possible, the centralized data on available resources will likely mean more transfers among CHI Franciscan hospitals from Silverdale to Enumclaw.

CHI Franciscan doctors with private practices have access to the data, and in case of emergencies, can direct a patient to a hospital with the shortest wait time.

Why Gig Harbor? Basically, explained Mary Ragsdale, the center’s chief, because the Gig Harbor building already had the technical infrastructure in place, and it’s located roughly between Bremerton and Tacoma, where Chi Franciscan has major hospitals.

“We have a lot of staff who live in either Bremerton or Tacoma, so it’s a convenient commute,” she said. “It’s also just off Highway 16, which makes it accessible.”

Ragsdale, who is also chief of nursing at St. Anthony’s said there was a subtler reason, as well.

“We didn’t want Mission Control to be closely associated with any one hospital. We wanted it to be in a location all by itself.”

The leased facillity on Point Fosdick Drive also has space for expansion, with technical infrastructure already in place, she noted.

The project has been two years in the making. Before starting in June, the hub had to synchronize the data collection among the eight acute-care hospitals and teach staff to use the program.

Ragsdale said she has been assured that the pool of data on dirty beds, wait times and transfers would not add steps to nurses checklists.

“It’s nothing they aren’t already doing. It’s just avoiding siloed data,” Ragsdale said.

In case of emergencies or it the program shuts down, control can be handed back to the individual hospitals’ supervisors for scheduling and keeping track of bed count.

The hospital chain declined to disclose how much the program cost.

Josephine Peterson covers Pierce County and Puyallup for The News Tribune and The Puyallup Herald. She previously worked at The News Journal in Delaware as the crime reporter and interned at The Washington Post.