LAS VEGAS—The hospital of the future might not be a hospital at all, having little resemblance to today's sprawling brick and mortar facilities.
At the Health Information and Management Systems Society annual meeting this week in Las Vegas, the intelligent, connected and digital hospital was a common theme in the educational and exhibit hall presentations.
But to make that vision a reality, new technologies are needed.
Phoenix-based Banner Health introduced its telemedicine program 10 years ago, starting with its intensive-care units. Now it is trying to achieve the same outcomes—including 45,000 fewer hospital days, $109 million in cost savings and 1,890 additional survivors—in other areas of the hospital.
Partnering with Philips Healthcare, Banner has upgraded the technology in three of its hospitals to include two-way audio and video equipment in all of its patient rooms. Patients also wear devices that can monitor and transmit information about their health status into their medical records.
As Banner takes on more financial risk for patients' overall health status, it is also bringing more technology into patient homes.
For more than 600 patients who are covered by a risk-based contract and have a minimum of five chronic conditions, Banner is using technology to monitor their health around the clock.
These patients return home with a number of biosensors, including scales, blood pressure monitors and pulse oximeters. Nurses can then track that data and intervene when necessary by calling patients or having health coaches make home visits.
Outside the exhibit hall Tuesday, Banner's chief nursing officer, Julie Reisetter, said the system is now focused on expanding and bringing more patients into that program. It also is looking to find the devices that can provide sophisticated, real-time information about their health.
“That's what I'm excited about … truly medical-grade wearables,” she said.
Yet the latest and greatest technologies will require additional bandwidth that many hospitals haven't previously anticipated. A number of cable companies, including Comcast, Cox Business, Spectrum Business and Time Warner, had representatives on-site to talk about how they're helping providers meet the growing demands on their information technology infrastructure.
Although there was no shortage of technologies being showcased at HIMSS, the challenge for providers will be sorting through what's beneficial and what's just window dressing.
Humber River Hospital formed in 1997 through the merger of three community hospitals in northwest Toronto. Its catchment area includes 850,000 people.
In 2005, it began to design a new building that would be patient-centered, high-tech and efficient, both in terms of cost and operations.
What resulted may be North America's first fully digital hospital, which opened last October. It automated more than three-fourths of its supply chain. In its laboratory, physicians order tests, deliver samples and receive results completely electronically. The digital health experience begins with online appointment scheduling and check-in.
Its facility resembles an airport more than a hospital, so family members can drop off patients at nearly the exact location of their appointments.
Two of the technologies it has introduced include wireless communication tools from Ascom and real-time locating systems to track wandering patients and improve security for newborns.
It has more vendors than it can count, but it also doesn't jump on every new device.
“The four things that I think about are quality, safety, efficiency and customer experience,” said Dr. Rueben Devlin, Humber River's CEO. “People talk about the Internet of things. I think about the Internet of junk. They're nice toys but they need to show value to healthcare to make it purposeful.”