Building a hospital for today and tomorrow

Wiring at William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital
As impressively beautiful as a work of cubism art, a small portion of the more than 1,000 miles of cable wire supporting Clements University Hospital technology is revealed after the removal of a few ceiling panels.

Technology Supports Patient-Centric, Innovative, Integrated Environment at Clements University Hospital

For four consecutive years, UT Southwestern Medical Center has been on the national “Most Wired” hospitals list, compiled by the American Hospital Association. When the new William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital debuts in late 2014, UT Southwestern will take its position as a technology leader to an even higher level.

The new hospital will offer a wide range of technological advancements that are aimed at improving communication between patients and their caregivers, and enhancing safety, efficiency, and the quality of patient care. As planned, these technological capabilities will be introduced and implemented in stages throughout the first few months of the facility’s operation.

“Technology is hard-wired into our commitment to continually improve patient care, to remain at the forefront of innovative research, and to ensure the next generation of physicians are well prepared for the challenges awaiting them,” said Dr. Bruce Meyer, Executive Vice President for Health System Affairs.

“The investment we’ve made in the most advanced technology at Clements University Hospital underscores that commitment,” he added. “The technology will be impressive. But its purpose is to support the patient-centric, innovative, integrated environment the hospital has been designed to provide.”

For example:

  • With a few clicks of a button from their bedsides, patients will be able to communicate with loved ones via videoconferencing on a big-screen TV monitor. Patients will be able to see and talk with their doctors (both those at UT Southwestern and physicians back in their hometowns). Patients also can learn about their conditions by watching educational videos, see test results, and even view selected movies in their single-patient rooms.
  • For doctors, the videoconferencing system will enable them to interact directly with patients, other physicians across campus or the world, as well as their students, support staff, and others. In the operating rooms, surgeons will be able to communicate in real-time with pathologists and radiologists in their labs.
  • Thanks to individual iPhones, nurses will receive calls directly from patients, rather than from a central desk. Nurses also will receive real-time information from patient monitors, which will be sent directly to their phones, and some record-keeping duties formerly done by hand will be handled electronically.
  • Medical students, residents, and fellows will connect with teaching physicians via their laptops and phones through the connectivity offered by SMART Boards® and off-site videoconferencing.
  • And findings from clinical trials and studies conducted at the hospital can be updated electronically by researchers on-site, rather returning to their offices or clinics.

“This hospital is going to be an amazing place – unique,” said Kirk Kirksey, Vice President of Information Resources. “Along with the research and education we do here at UT Southwestern, the hospital’s technology will add a new dimension – integration with and direct connection to our database, which will elevate clinical care to a new level. We will be able to do things that a typical health care system is not capable of doing.” 

Suresh Gunasekaran, Associate Vice President for Health System Information Resources, added, “We will have the most connected hospital in our market … perhaps in the country.”

Here’s a more in-depth look at how, according to Mr. Gunasekaran, this technology “will make distances disappear.”

For Patients, Physicians, and Staff, Connectivity Is Key

For patients at Clements University Hospital, connecting within the hospital and to the outside world will be as easy as pushing a button from their bedsides.

Similar to Skype – but on a more advanced level – the videoconferencing capability will enable patients to make and receive calls, and even decide whether they want to see the person on screen (and have the caller see them) or utilize audio only.

A doctor can check on a patient via the video screen. And when a nurse enters a patient’s room, the name and photo of the nurse will appear on the TV monitor, since their ID badge will be recognized by the video application.

When nurses are on the floor, patients can reach them via iPhones, rather than going through a nurse call center. From their phones, nurses can securely access patient information, and information can be automatically entered into the patient’s electronic medical record, eliminating a task nurses have typically performed by hand.

“All this new technology will reinforce the personal contact between nurses and their patients, since it will free nurses from jobs that would normally take them away from the patient’s bedside,” said Thea Vanderhill, BSN, RN, CNRN and Director of Transition Planning for UT Southwestern University Hospitals. “Nurses will be able to spend more time with patients and provide more one-on-one patient care.”

Upon admission, patients will be greeted with a welcome video with information about the hospital, ordering food, reaching nurses, connecting with their doctor and family, etc.

The patient will be able to view educational materials recommended by their physicians, and be reminded to watch the videos via the TV screen. Once a patient completes a video, the system will send a message to the patient’s electronic medical record, showing that the video has been viewed.

To make their hospital stay more enjoyable, patients will be able to order movies and watch TV, just as they would in a hotel. They also can report any issues about the room’s temperature or lighting, and also control window shades, from a bedside handset. Apple TV will be available in all patient rooms, allowing physicians and support staff to transfer images from phones or laptops to the patient’s screen, including X-rays, test results, etc.

And when it’s time to leave, a discharge instruction video will be played, making the process easier for the patient and their loved ones.

Technology Makes New Hospital ‘Smarter’

Nearly 50 SMART Boards® with 84-inch screens will be installed in conference rooms at Clements University Hospital. SMART Boards® are interactive whiteboards that combine touch screens with videoconferencing capabilities, allowing real-time communication with other devices, such as phones and laptops.

SMART Boards® have become revolutionary tools in education during the past decade, but have not been widely used in medical applications. At UT Southwestern, that’s changing – with SMART Boards® to be used for patient conferences, physician meetings, educational presentations, rounding, and other uses. SMART Boards® also will be integrated with patients’ electronic medical records and the medical center’s information systems, providing a tremendous added benefit.

“If you want to have a case conference regarding a patient, you can pull up X-rays or the pertinent electronic medical record, and the SMART Board® allows you to annotate and create a discussion that can be shared with other doctors, residents, or students participating in the videoconference,” said Dennis Pfeifer, Assistant Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Health System Information Resources.

An invitation through UT Southwestern’s Outlook system will provide access to the SMART Board® application. Every person invited to participate can share information electronically and write on each other’s presentations remotely.

“Since UT Southwestern is dedicated to both education and health care, SMART Boards® will be an integral part of how we run meetings from now on,” said Dr. Pfeifer. “This technology will become an important way to teach, discuss patient outcomes, and improve patient care.”

Even More Technology Tools

Operating rooms in Clements University Hospital will be equipped with videoconferencing technology and monitors, so that pathologists can view tissue samples extracted during surgery and provide immediate feedback to surgeons. Similarly, radiologists can view images and report back in real-time – without leaving their offices.

“This tool will allow the surgeon and the pathologist to see each other on the screen and talk back and forth during the procedure,” said Mark Rauschuber, Assistant Vice President and Chief Information Officer, University Hospitals. “The surgeon can see tissue samples from the pathologist on the monitor. Another monitor will allow surgeons to read the radiologist’s imaging results.”

The second component of videoconferencing in ORs is that, with the patient’s consent, surgeries can be recorded for future teaching purposes.

Another tool is enhanced cabling and wireless coverage. More than 1,040 miles of cable wire are being installed in the new hospital – the equivalent of reaching from Dallas to the Grand Canyon. And new contracts with AT&T and Verizon will provide much improved cellular coverage, allowing unlimited coverage throughout and around the hospital.

A patient garden area, for example, will offer wireless coverage of patients’ monitors, so patients may walk outside without being physically attached to their medical monitoring systems. Eventually, a tracking device for Emergency Department patients will show exactly where each patient is located at all times – improving safety and security.

“We may be called ‘Most Wired,’ but we really are the most wireless,” said Mr. Gunasekaran. “This is just one way information technology is helping to deliver the future of medicine, today.”

A Collaborative Effort

Like every other aspect of Clements University Hospital, decisions about the best technological tools to incorporate were informed by teams participating in the planning process. These teams included patients, nurses, doctors, support staff, caregivers, and community supporters. Their recommendations were reviewed and considered before decisions were made.

“The biggest thing, from my perspective, is that there has been involvement from the entire spectrum of employees – and there has been listening to their feedback and problem-solving solutions. Because of this, the new hospital is both patient-centric and employee-centric, which, ultimately, is the best environment for everyone,” said Dr. Karen Kowalske, Chair of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and co-chair of the planning group that researched and recommended the various technologies within the hospital.

Mr. Rauschuber said, “We are building this hospital for today and for the future. As technology advances, we want to make sure everything inside the hospital’s walls can handle new advances. Technology and the medical industry change rapidly, and we will have the infrastructure in place to handle any changes that might occur.”