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HIMSS Intelligent Hospital tracks patients, pills and clinicians in completely connected loop

At last week’s Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference, the Intelligent Hospital Pavilion was intended to demonstrate what healthcare might look like in the very near future if organizations truly prioritized safety and efficiency.

Sponsored by the Intelligent Health Association and the related RFID in Healthcare Consortium, the pavilion featured tours and demonstrations of technology in five different types of hospital rooms, plus an intelligent pharmacy, supply chain and a patient’s home. Visitors could track data feeds from more than five dozen vendors on a video “wall of knowledge” at the entrance to the Intelligent Hospital Pavilion and Intelligent Medical Home and take guided or self-guided tours of each room to see the systems in action.

In each hospital setting, including an emergency department, labor and delivery, intensive care, a cardiology suite and a step-down unit, patients, clinicians and staffers are automatically identified as they enter each room through real-time location services (RTLS). The RFID badges each worker carries double as communication devices, which deliver voice, text, alarms from infusion pumps and other important information.

A tour of the step-down unit demonstrated how technology can continuously monitor the ambient environment. All clocks are synchronized by Wi-Fi for consistent time-stamping of readings, events and procedures, while RTLS tracks movement of medical devices and equipment. Even oxygen tanks are connected to the hospital network to make it easy to verify pressure and readiness.

intelligent hospital wall of knowledgeAll data is shared through the hospital’s electronic health record, including observations and imaging taken in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, in the ED and from the patient’s primary care physician. Skylight Healthcare Systems provided a personalized electronic “white board” for patients to view educational material related to their conditions; viewings are automatically documented in the EHR.

If the patient is designated a fall risk, a color-coded dome light automatically illuminates in the room to signal that to physicians, nurses and other staff. An instrumented Hill-Rom smart bed features a non-contact monitor under the mattress to detect movements and alert a nurse should there be an attempted bed exit.

A typical step-down unit might only take patient vital signs every four hours. The bed pad acts as an alternative to traditional telemetry, allowing continuous monitoring. Abnormal readings or troubling trends trigger alerts sent to clinicians’ mobile devices.

Nurses are supposed to round hourly, and a Synapse Wireless schedule tracker makes sure that they do. The patient’s family can log into a portal to view a rounding summary.

For infection control, an RFID tag on the dispenser of hand sanitizer in the room keeps track of whether clinicians and technicians do in fact clean their hands before touching the patient. Bar codes or RFID tags on patient wristbands help assure safety of medication administration and sample collection, and automatically labeled samples get delivered to the laboratory by pneumatic tubes.

A nurse can push lab results to the attending physician over the communications network, who then returns an order by secure text.

After a medication order goes in, drugs are delivered to the room by a Swisslog RoboCourier robot, then administered with the help of an Omnicell mobile medication management system. Orders are placed by handheld tablets, interfaced with computerized physician order entry and clinical decision support to check for allergies, medication interactions and dietary restrictions. Food itself comes in on trays tracked by smartphone or iPod Touch.

When the physician signs a discharge order, the intelligent hospital activates a pre-programmed but customizable discharge protocol. Patients can fill prescriptions from the bed through the in-hospital retail pharmacy and designate a “community” of people who can see their post-discharge dietary plans and activity schedules.

As soon as the patient is out the door, a nurse alerts environmental services to start the cleaning process. Should cleaning staff inadvertently put a durable medical asset into a laundry chute, an RFID tag sets off an alarm.


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