ARMC Physician Invents Patient Isolation Device

Mark E. Comunale, M.D., chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center (ARMC) and chief medical officer for patient safety, stands next to his recent invention, a mobile Patient Isolation Transport Unit (PITU) that is currently U.S. Patent Pending. Dr. Comunale sketched out his design for the PITU while thinking about possible low-cost solutions to patient isolation. The result, according to his patent proposal, was “a novel blending and application of existing technology to create a low-cost, disposable bio-secure environment in which to temporarily hold and transport patients who are suspected of having an infectious or contagious disease.”

Mark E. Comunale, M.D., chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center (ARMC) and chief medical officer for patient safety, stands next to his recent invention, a mobile Patient Isolation Transport Unit (PITU) that is currently U.S. Patent Pending. Dr. Comunale sketched out his design for the PITU while thinking about possible low-cost solutions to patient isolation. The result, according to his patent proposal, was “a novel blending and application of existing technology to create a low-cost, disposable bio-secure environment in which to temporarily hold and transport patients who are suspected of having an infectious or contagious disease.”

By Staff Reports

(Victor Valley) – Mark E. Comunale, M.D., chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center (ARMC) and chief medical officer for patient safety, has invented a mobile Patient Isolation Transport Unit (PITU) that is currently U.S. Patent Pending. Dr. Comunale, who received his undergraduate degree from Boston University, his medical degree from Tufts, and taught for more than a dozen years at Harvard Medical School, came up with the idea for the PITU while trying to solve a practical problem.

“The need for this patient isolation transport unit arose during a period when we were screening for Ebola and other diseases,” said Dr. Comunale, a member of ARMC’s medical staff since 2006. “Once a patient says ‘yes’ to screening questions, the staff must don appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and must have an anteroom available to dress and undress.”

The challenge has been how and where to hold patients while they are assessed and then transported to an appropriate location.

Dr. Comunale sketched out his design for the PITU while thinking about possible low-cost solutions to patient isolation. The result, according to his patent proposal, was “a novel blending and application of existing technology to create a low-cost, disposable bio-secure environment in which to temporarily hold and transport patients who are suspected of having an infectious or contagious disease.”

The PITU is unique in its design because it is disposable and relatively inexpensive. The frame is designed to integrate with hospital stretchers and beds.

“This device is large enough for a patient to sit up and allows movement of the arms and legs and the ability to eat and drink while isolated on a bed,” said Dr. Comunale. “The PITU utilizes the same technology as a Power Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR), which is an already-existing technology that is used to purify air.”

The PITU is stored adjacent to the hospital’s Emergency Room entrance for easy access, but can also be moved to the front entrance of the hospital or to the Medical Office Building north of the medical center.

“As a Trauma Center, constant readiness is essential,” said Dr. Comunale. “The PITU has already been tested in drills and will be used as an integral part of our trauma and emergency services.”

Besides taking care of patients, running his department and solving practical problems, Dr. Comunale also recently authored an article titled, “An Assessment of Basic Patient Safety Skills in Residents Entering the First Year of Clinical Training,” which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Patient Safety.

ARMC is a 456‐bed university‐affiliated teaching hospital located on a 70‐acre campus in Colton, California, and is a designated Level II trauma center. ARMC operates a regional burn center, primary stroke center, a free‐standing behavioral health center, four primary care centers including three family health centers, and provides more than 40 outpatient specialty care services. For more information, go to: www.arrowheadmedcenter.org.

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