What is the Connected Hospital?

The Connected Hospital is a vision of a fully integrated hospital where wireless technology allows caregivers and patients to roam throughout the hospital while providing accurate and timely monitoring. In a Connected Hospital caregivers can focus on providing the best quality of care to their patients, instead of on administrative tasks. The vision of a connected hospital stems from the progression of an increasing number of wireless medical devices in a hospital. Connecting medical devices to Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems has reduced the time it takes to enter vitals from 7 to 10 minutes to less than one minute per patient. As the number of patients per nurse will unfortunately grow due to ever increasing nurse shortages, these gained efficiencies  will be crucial to providing quality patient care. Wireless technology won’t just be used to connect existing medical devices, entire new waves of medical devices are being created to take advantage of the connectivity that wireless technology provides. Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) are now used to quickly find usable equipment for treatments. Advanced bed and fall monitors can monitor patient movements and alert staff as soon as there is an issue. Mobile medical devices will allow patients to take home their medical devices so they can be monitored even after they leave the hospital. All of these technologies are being enabled by the underlying robustness of the wireless connection.

Patient safety, data accuracy, and mobility will all be fueled by wireless technology. In the Connected Hospital, every device is connected and communicating with the EHR (Electronic Health Records) for accurate patient records and real-time data analysis. Within the Connected Hospital, nurses can monitor many patients remotely from one main station, receiving alerts and observing data captured each second on the patients’ health. Doctors can make more informed decisions with accurate and up-to-date patient information, leading to better patient outcomes. Patients and their family can feel safe, knowing that they will always receive the correct dosage of the right medication, will always receive the greatest care from medical staff, and will feel more comfortable not being tied down by wired medical devices. Read on to discover further benefits and challenges of the Connected Hospital.

What are the Drivers and Benefits of the Connected Hospital?

Integration with EHRs
Recent government regulations such as HIPAA, HITECH, and the Affordable Care Act provide incentives for hospitals to adopt EHR systems. Those that do not adopt an EHR may be susceptible to penalties down the line. In addition to the financial incentive, wireless medical devices communicating with the EHR ensure accurate patient information and more streamlined billing processes for hospitals.

Prevent Hospital Readmissions
Hospital readmissions are a key driver for the Connected Hospital due to the Affordable Care Act. Medicare will not reimburse hospitals for readmissions within 30 days for the same cause. The Connected Hospital will prevent patient readmission by providing better patient care including educating patients on ways to improve and monitor their health at home and ensuring a follow-up appointment before discharge. In addition, once patients are home, doctors can monitor their progress through remote home health monitoring.

Saving Nurses’ Time
Each patient within a hospital has on average 3-6 devices attached to them. If it takes a nurse approximately 5-15 minutes to visit each patient and check all vital signs, he or she can only visit approximately 4-12 patients per hour. This manual documentation of vital signs and changes can occupy a good portion of a nurse’s day, especially when he or she has over 12 patients to monitor. Movements such as National Nurses United, Safe Patient Ratios, have organized to ensure safe nurse to patient ratios. In addition to safe nurse to patient ratios, remote monitoring can help immensely in reducing the amount of time spent manually entering patient information. According to the report from Transparency Market Research, Medical Device Connectivity Market, the current workflow for a nurse’s round is:

  • Nurse goes to patient room at scheduled intervals
  • Checks each device that a patient is connected to (3-6 devices)
  • Notes down any changes and vital signs
  • Locate the patient’s EHR
  • Transcribes value
  • Submits the info to EHR

Medical device connectivity solves this problem by automatically sending data from devices to the EHR, saving nursing time to increase productivity and allow for better patient care.

Improved Patient Outcomes
In addition, the Medical Device Connectivity Market report states that various locations that have implemented CPOE (Computerized Physician Order Entry) systems have demonstrated a 20% decrease in hospital wide mortality rates. Automating the data transfer from medical devices to the EHR improves communication of accurate and up to date medical information, allowing medical staff to make proper diagnostic decisions. This frees up nurses and clinicians time to spend on improving patient care, rather than documentation of data.

Increased Need for Workflow Automation:
Workflow automation helps with the following:

  • Minimize transcription errors at point of care
  • Remotely configure and monitor patient’s dose and other key information
  • Facilitates data analysis by doctors
  • Improved patient outcomes due to complete picture of patient’s conditions
  • Automatic billing to prevent loss of revenue
  • Provides clinical analytical capabilities for strategic decisions within a hospital

What Issues Should Hospitals and IT Administrators Keep in Mind When Implementing the Wireless Hospital?

A hospital is a complex and often challenging RF environment with large multi-floor campuses and several obstructions such as human bodies, medical equipment, and liquids. It also deals with huge amounts of data, including critical and sensitive patient information. Much of that data is generated by the thousands of medical devices that operate in a hospital. Along with medical devices, a hospital also has to deal with interference from the increasing number of wireless devices being used by both hospital staff and guests.

For a hospital to function smoothly while delivering the highest quality patient care, its medical devices must operate reliably at all times. This means connecting anywhere, anytime. Medical devices must also ensure the highest level of security for their patients’ safety and privacy.

Lack of Standards for Interoperability
One path to making the connected hospital a reality is to join together a variety of perspectives from:

  • Medical device manufacturers
  • Wireless module manufacturers
  • Infrastructure providers
  • IT personnel

These organizations and personnel can lead the industry in generating guidelines and interoperability standards for wireless technology in hospitals. Once everyone is on the same page on how to create a secure and reliable network, it will make the vision of a fully connected hospital a reality that much sooner.

Security
A hospital requires the highest level of security for their patient’s safety and privacy and this especially applies to wireless medical devices. Medical devices must be protected by WPA2-Enterprise Security and FIPS 140-2. For more information about wireless security in hospitals, read our two white papers below.

  • Wi-Fi® Client Device Security & HIPAA Compliance
  • FIPS 140-2 and Wi-Fi Client Devices

Lack of Wireless Adoption

Despite the growth in wireless technology, hospitals are reluctant to adopt wireless medical devices due to uncertainty and distrust. It is understandable to be wary due to security and patient safety concerns. However, the opportunities for growth are increasingly outweighing the challenges associating with adopting wireless technology. Today there are a multitude of incentives, documentation, and assistance for hospital IT to make informed decisions by joining an entire ecosystem of medical device manufacturers, wireless module manufacturers, and infrastructure providers. Hospitals do not have to do it alone.

Visit our Medical Applications Areas page for more information about wireless in healthcare, the benefits of using Laird embedded wireless solutions in healthcare, and product suggestions for various applications.

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