Technology improves patient care and efficiency

For the last several Februarys, Hospital News has focused on facilities management and design, health technology and greening health care. And every year the number of submissions increases substantially, with this year being the highest thus far. And every February I am blown away by the advancements the health care system is making – in most part thanks to technology.

On our cover this month is a story about North America’s first fully digital hospital, and the greenest. The new Humber River Regional Hospital (HRRH) is slated to open in 2015, and has been designed with patient care in mind. One of the things I find most intriguing about the new HRRH is that 80 per cent of the rooms will be single patient rooms – with in-room space for a family member to spend the night with their loved one. For myself, and many others, that is of the utmost importance.

Fortunately, I have not spent a lot of time in hospital, but I did spend four nights after the birth of my daughter and being in the hospital (even for a happy occasion like having a baby) is not easy. My experience, for the most part, was a great one. I delivered in a newly renovated birthing unit and was able to remain in a private room for the duration of my stay. There was also a pullout chair bed for a loved one to spend the night. For me, that was the most important thing– being able to have my husband or mother spend the night with me, to help me take care of my new baby.

Another woman on the unit wasn’t so lucky – she was recovering from a c-section and was in a room with three other women – and the rules were that when you were not in a private room, you could not have a visitor spend the night. I can’t even imagine, my husband and mother were my arms and feet while I recovered – I could not get up to tend to the baby when she cried or even walk to the washroom. I know there are nurses available to help with that but nurses are busy – hospitals are understaffed, and having a family member there to assist in the care of patients seems to me a no-brainer. It lessens the load on the staff and probably puts some patients in a much better state, making them much easier to deal with.

It’s encouraging to see that more and more hospitals, like HRRH, are getting it. Technology and advancement isn’t just about improving efficiency and cost cutting – it’s about patient care. Something as simple as planning for a small space for a loved one can make a huge difference to patients, and their recovery.

Of course we have to improve efficiencies and develop more cost effective ways of providing care if our system is to be sustainable, and there are several articles in this issue about hospitals finding ways to do just that. Using reusable sharps instead of disposable ones, conducting waste audits to lower the amount of refuse that has to be removed, to name just two.

This month’s issue is full of articles about pretty amazing things that are happening in hospitals across the country. From a patient being able to order a meal from their bedside, to a virtual emergency room providing mental health care to teens in crisis from rural areas where a psychiatrist is not available, it’s clear that at the heart of these advancements is patient care.

My community hospital recently opened a brand new state-of-the-art emergency room. Having visited the old emergency room several times, it left a lot to be desired. It was old and run-down, far too small to manage the amount of visits it received. With the new emergency room, wait times have decreased substantially, the wait is more pleasant because the environment you are waiting in is much more pleasant, and I even noticed the staff is much happier as well – probably because it is much easier to do their job. Advancements and technology may come at a price, but it is a win-win all around. The patient receives better care, in a more healing environment, the hospital saves money by improving efficiencies and staff are happier knowing they can provide the best care to their patients.

As long as we don’t lose sight of patient care being the driving force behind these advancements, technology may be the most important ingredient in making our health care system a sustainable one.