Hospitals are using a wide array of technology to provide a better experience for patients and their loved ones. This ranges from apps that help determine the risk of breast cancer women face to devices that let medical professionals conduct examinations remotely.
A wide variety of technology
Throughout the country, hospitals are using a wide array of technology to provide a better experience for patients and their loved ones. This ranges from apps that help determine the risk of breast cancer women face to devices that let medical professionals conduct examinations remotely. “Combining new and evolving technologies” with the traditional basics of providing compassionate care “allows us to provide new and more effective patient-centered care,” says Richard “Chip” Davis, president and chief executive officer at Sibley Memorial Hospital in the District of Columbia.
An innovation hub
Sibley has an innovation hub team that works in a spacious room that once stored hospital records. Davis encourages Sibley’s 2,200 employees — from doctors and nurses to maintenance workers — to contribute ideas to improve health care and save money. Artist and musician Yoko Sen worked with a team of technology experts, product designers, engineers and Sibley clinicians who comprise the innovative hub team to design a “tranquility room.” It features soothing music, aromatherapy and images of stars projected onto a privacy curtain that’s standard in all rooms. The tranquility room is available for nurses and other staffers to relax, the idea being that well-rested clinicians will provide better care.
Not long ago, if you wanted X-rays of your broken arm to share with a specialist, you’d have to fax multiple forms to obtain a CD of the image. Today, more than 800 hospitals, medical groups and private practices use a medical image management platform by Ambra that allows patients the convenience of requesting and uploading their X-ray images using their web browser, says Ambra chief executive officer Morris Panner. With this technology, “uploading and sharing imaging through the cloud occurs in under three minutes,” says Chad Brisendine, chief information officer for St. Luke’s University Health Network, a nonprofit regional health network primarily in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Diagnosing stroke patients remotely
In Boston, stroke specialists from Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital help patients remotely by using TeleStroke, videoconferencing and image sharing technology. The technology provides physicians the ability to examine the patient and view brain images from afar. This allows them to determine the severity of a stroke and the type of stroke the patient suffered. Making a timely diagnosis allows physicians at the hospital to provide quick treatment. Doctors can, for example, provide a clot-fighting drug that can greatly mitigate the effects of a stroke.
Digital psychiatric services
Using the same camera and communications equipment that provides TeleStroke consults, Sentara Healthcare, a nonprofit health system that has 12 hospitals in Virginia and North Carolina, also provides TelePsych services. TelePsych allows psychiatric emergency clinicians, including psychiatrists, to assess and develop treatment plans for patients remotely. Typically, the consults are initiated by an attending physician in an emergency department. The mental health professional and patient are connected by video conference. At seven Sentara hospitals, more than half of psychiatric evaluations are being conducted remotely with this technology. It enables patients who need psychiatric treatment to get it quicker; plus, it frees up emergency beds.
Electronic communication boards
At Oviedo Medical Center in Oviedo, Florida, private rooms are equipped with an electronic communication board that lists such information as the patient’s medical team, upcoming tests and anticipated discharge dates. An updated version of handwritten “grease boards,” these “MyCare” boards can also display patient goals, track medications and show scheduled procedures, says Kenneth Donahey, Oviedo Medical chief executive officer. When a hospital staff member enters a private room, the patient’s MyCare board records the date and time of the visit, allowing patients and caregivers to keep a detailed record of such interactions. Staff members wear badges with electronic chips embedded to track which rooms they enter.
A growing number of hospitals are using robotic-assisted surgery to provide a minimally invasive option to patients. For example, the da Vinci Surgical System is available at many high-ranking U.S. hospitals for cancer, urology, gynecology and gastroenterology. Because it requires just a few tiny incisions, the system is less invasive than open surgery or laparoscopy and brings potential benefits such as lower risk of infection and shorter hospital stays, proponents say.
Simulated patient interviews
Students at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and University of Michigan School of Nursing, as well as doctors at about 15 hospitals nationwide, practice talking to patients with interactive role-playing simulations developed by the health simulation company Kognito, based in New York City. In the simulations, health care professionals converse with realistic, emotionally-responsive virtual patients. This allows doctors and nurses to hone their skills in the areas of behavioral coaching, developing empathy and talking about the misuse of alcohol and drugs, says Ron Goldman, co-founder and chief executive officer of Kognito. “The program helps clinicians know how to collaborate with patients, not just lecture to them,” Goldman says.
Electronic breast cancer questionnaire
At the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital in West Bloomfield Township, Michigan, women are asked to complete a simple questionnaire on an electronic tablet when they register for a screening mammogram. Patients are asked about their family history and their lifestyle, such as smoking and drinking habits and pregnancies. The Hughes Risk App uploads the patient’s information into an electronic medical record and produces a lifetime likelihood of developing breast cancer. If the questionnaire identifies a patient as “high risk,” the app sends a letter to the patient and her primary care physician notifying them of this and offering preventive treatments and recommendations for heightened screening.
Algorithms that help find specialists
For many patients, finding the right specialist, particularly for a second opinion, can be daunting. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston Children’s Hospital and more than a dozen other hospitals nationwide use computer software from the San Francisco-based company Grand Rounds to connect patients to the best specialist for them in their insurance network. This technology saves time and energy for patients, relieving them of the task of researching for specialists. The software uses an algorithm to identify specialists based on what the patient is being treated for and his or her medical history. If the specialist is not nearby, telephone consultations are an option.
Monitors that help nurses attend rounds
With multiple patients to care for, keeping track of when they’re supposed to check in on a particular patient while attending their rounds can be challenging for nurses. At Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, nurses and medical technicians are assisted by the Visilert tracking system, a small monitor placed outside the rooms of patients. The color-coded monitor reminds nurses and technicians when it’s time to attend rounds for a particular patient. The aim is to ensure that a nurse or a technician visits each patient at least once an hour.