A brand new hospital built by the Nemours foundation is using technology to improve not only efficiency and outcomes but to enhance the patient experience.
In this case, the patients are kids with chronic illnesses who spend a lot of time either in a hospital room or traveling to and from the hospital for treatments.
A big source of stress for anyone who has spent much time in hospitals is the large number of healthcare providers who come and go every day. Nemours is using RFID-embedded ID tags and a reader integrated into the doorway to tell patients who is coming and going, and they display it on the in-room television.
Another way they are trying to use technology to make kids more comfortable is by storing preferences for kids if they make return visits. When they arrive, their room is already stocked with their favorite video games, Website bookmarks, friend lists, and other electronic entertainment pre-loaded for their comfort. The lighting and temperature can be set the way the child prefers, the blinds covering the floor-to-ceiling glass windows may be set to provide just the right amount of view or light.
Once the children are onsite, hospital surveillance, RFID, facilities, clinical scheduling, and other systems work together, behind the scenes, to ensure their safety and security. Other systems coordinate in-room maintenance and related activities to occur when a child is getting an X-ray or otherwise out of the room.
All of this is designed to enhance the child's sense of control in an inherently "out of control" setting. The business world would call this a "soft ROI" or "soft metric" -- a metric that everyone knows matters but one that defies quantification and is therefore overlooked on your MBA's spreadsheet.
What Nemours did was rethink how processes and near-field technologies could be combined with a IP-friendly building to make patients less fearful, more comfortable, and "a member of the family" in many ways.
"Consumerism in healthcare is a predictable consequence of the information age. Patients are increasingly informed, connected, and mobile," said Nemours' chief medical information officer Dr. David Milov when I spoke with him.
But this isn't only about making kids feel better. It is also about providing the best care in the most efficient way.
At the bedside, IT allows measurement and accountability essential to documenting improvement. A sequence of actions is a basis for Quality Improvement -- PDSA [plan, do, study, act]. Electronic systems permit the measurement and display of activities within a given process. Healthcare transactions are complex and certain resources are scarce.
This is music to a CFO's ears since a big problem in hospitals is waste. Equipment, supplies, and labor are all a premium in a hospital, but often the hospital doesn't know who is doing what, where they are doing it, with what equipment, and how long it is or will take to get done.
And there's the value CIOs can provide the hospital environment -- they can marry soft metric value like customer comfort and security with hard measure metrics like bed turnover to make a better hospital environment for everyone. But to do so, they need to re-examine the process of everything that goes on in the patient's room.