Newswise — A new automated microbiology laboratory that now allows staff to quickly grow, incubate and identify bacteria in minutes won Innovation of the Year on March 2 at Harris Health System’s Innovation Summit, a celebration of the staff suggestion program to improve patient care, organizational efficiencies and enhance patient and staff environment.

The microbiology laboratory serves all Harris Health patients and is housed on the Ben Taub Hospital campus. It uses full automation and robotics to exponentially breakdown specimen cultures in a fraction of time compared to current industry methods that take up to 72 hours to yield results. With quick identification, medical teams can give patients targeted antibiotics to tackle ailments, reduce days in the hospital and eliminate costly and unnecessary medications. Using targeted antibiotics also prevents bacterial resistance to antibiotic treatments.

“We see innovative thinking at work every day, in every lobby and hallway, every patient room and clinic, on the loading dock and in the laboratory,” George V. Masi, president and CEO, Harris Health System, told more than 300 attendees at the third annual summit. “From every employee’s unique perspective, each has the power to inspire the innovation that is so vital to Harris Health in our mission to provide compassionate, high-quality care to our community.”

Over the years, employees have submitted thousands of ideas and netted more than $30 million in savings and cost avoidance. This year’s event featured keynote speaker Spencer Tillman, TV sports analyst, author of “Scoring in the Red Zone” and former Houston Oilers/San Francisco 49er football great.

“The red zone is the area on the gridiron between the 20-yard line and a touchdown, but it doesn’t only apply to the football field,” Tillman says. “These are places where the need to achieve objectives is immediate, the obstacles are formidable, the options available are limited and time is running out. If you’re not innovative, you’re not scoring.”

For Shanna Cummings, director, Care Management and Center for Innovation, the summit is essential to recognize the contributions of the entire Harris Health workforce.

“Without our employees and our dedicated medical staff, we wouldn’t have Harris Health,” she says. “Through our innovation program, we are modeling our organization’s mission to improve our community’s health and educate the next generation of healthcare professionals.”

Neal Kachalia, director, Laboratory Services, Harris Health System, described the laboratory innovation as a “game changer” for patient care as only three other systems in the U.S. have the same technology. “The fact that patients can receive timely treatments for their illnesses and see improvement in their recovery sooner is amazing,” he added. “It has been, and continues to be a team effort from various services and disciplines working together for patient care.”

During the summit, other honorees from the system were recognized as Pavilion Winners:• Automated Workforce Account Management—a self-service tool that helps new and current employees access the system’s computer network, software applications, mandatory trainings and benefits without telephone assistance or personnel help.• Transition of Care—a new process that ensures patients receive proper care and that follow prescribed instructions to reduce further care or services. • Radiology R.I.T.E.—a program that empowers team members at all levels to speak out and share ideas with greater buy-in and participation in addressing problems.• “Yes” Marks the Spot—a process that gives patients a role in ensuring that procedures and surgeries are done correctly. A patient is given a marker and asked to tell the surgeon to physically mark the spot to reinforce the location of the procedure.

Additionally, two physician partners were honored for their dedication to patient care and research with the 2017 Think Innovation Transformation Award: Dr. Thomas P. Giordano, medical director, HIV Services, Thomas Street Health Center, and associate professor, Baylor College of Medicine, and Dr. Mike K. Liang, surgeon, General Surgery, Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, and associate professor, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Register for reporter access to contact details