Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC Unveils New Web Application to Improve Hospital Staff Response during Disasters

April 4, 2016

Researchers from the Department of Pediatric Anesthesiology at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC have unveiled a new web application aimed at improving how quickly staff return to the hospital in the event of a disaster.

“Disaster Recall: Optimizing Hospital Surge Capacity” was presented at Pediatric Anesthesiology 2016, co-sponsored by the Society for Pediatric Anesthesia and the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine in Colorado Springs, Colo. The study surveyed 50 anesthesiology departments in U. S. children’s hospitals to determine the systems in place to recall critical staff when a disaster triggers an influx of patients.

More than half of the children’s hospitals that responded to the survey manually call or text staff during disaster situations, the study showed. Twenty-eight percent used automated text messages to cell phones; 4 percent sent automated messages via a messaging application; and 16 percent had no system at all.

“Most children’s hospitals surveyed have antiquated systems in place,” said Ali Hassanpour, M.D., graduate medical fellow, Children’s Hospital, who led the study and designed the web application. “The vast majority use a phone tree system, and that process can break down at any point. You can’t predict when you are going to have an influx of patients, but a more reliable, simpler, inexpensive system can make all the difference.”

While investigating different approaches to sending text messages, researchers determined that a dedicated SMS server via a reliable SMS gateway currently is considered the most reliable method. Email-based text messaging techniques are no longer considered reliable as they have a high latency and failure rate due to abuse by spammers.

Based on the results, researchers developed a one-touch system to automatically and simultaneously contact each member of the anesthesiology department, alerting them to a disaster and requesting their return to the hospital. Responses are automatically recorded and tallied in real time through a secure interface.

“Our approach was to find a system that could quickly and instantaneously get in touch with everyone using something everyone has, a mobile phone,” Dr. Hassanpour said. “If you can efficiently get responses to see if staff members are coming back and how fast, without having to communicate with the original person who sent the message, you eliminate unnecessary work and can focus on the patients.”

The web application is being used by the Department of Pediatric Anesthesiology at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. In addition to Dr. Hassanpour, the findings were presented by Franklyn Cladis, M.D., and Peter Davis, M.D., both from Children’s Hospital.

For more information on the Department of Pediatric Anesthesiology, visit