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Bits, bytes, beds and wi-fi

Digital hospital promises benefits in efficiency, safety and care. 

Plans are under way for the first fully integrated digital hospital.

UnitingCare Health will expand the St Stephen’s day hospital at Hervey Bay, which will house 96 beds. It will be funded, in part, by a Health and Hospital Fund grant of $47 million; $21 million of that will go towards equipping the hospital with its eHealth component.

The hope is that the facility will be the first Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Level 7 hospital in Australia within six months of opening. 

Electronic Medical Records will be a feature at the new hospital from the outset, to help achieve the digital advancements and get the international rating. The EMR system will aim to improve efficiency, safety and care. Patients will be able to pre-admit themselves online. When they arrive, a medical record will be set up and used throughout their stay.

“When the nurses take their observations, the device will record those and digitally put them directly into the EMR, so there’s no writing or transcribing,” St Stephen’s Hospital general manager Leanne Tones says. Patient monitoring will also feed directly into the EMR.

St Stephen’s director of nursing Jill O’Brien says, “The benefit to that is you’re going to be getting accurate information.”

There will be little paper in the hospitals, with X-rays and pathology results amongst the things that will be digital. The entire medication loop will also be electronic.

Tones explains, “We will also have automatic dispensing cabinets that basically only allow you to take the medications that have been ordered for that patient.”

In addition, she says, both patients and medications will be barcoded, making the hospital much safer, and there’s a lot of decision support within the EMR, alerting clinicians to patient allergies or interactions for drugs. O’Brien says nurses will get updates about results and alerts as to when tasks are due. They will also have access to workstations on wheels and, potentially, tablets.

The EMR can also be used to do forcing functions, such as making sure patients have a risk assessment for falls. “You can design it however you want,” Tones says.

A real-time location system will be in place for both equipment and patients. It will allow those in waiting rooms to locate their loved ones at any time, alerting them to when they’re going to theatre, recovery and back to their room.

“Our model of care is that we really want to increase bedside time for nurses,” Tones says. To achieve this, two screens will be fitted in each room, including a patient entertainment system that can be used to involve them in education, showing them any results or improvements on screen. Another monitor can be used to access the EMR.

“The idea is that they don’t have to go back to a nurse station so they can spend more time with the patient,” Tones says. “We really want to increase [patient participation in] what’s being recorded about them.”

The entire hospital will be wireless and Tones says this means multiple ways of completing tasks must be available. She says there will be a second generator so that if power is lost, work can continue.

“The initial impact on nurses is going to be huge,” Tones says, explaining that they will have to start again as novices in terms of what they do proficiently now.

O’Brien adds, “We have a huge training program, from basic computer training on how to use the applications to scenario training.” She says it’s important to remember the patient needs to be the focus and not the computer. “The training around that with scenarios is really important.”

The hospital will be accepting expressions of interests from “new nurses who will take on the brave new world of a totally digital hospital”, Tones says.

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