Use of technology in hospitals can improve efficiency & patient experience

To patients and their families, hospitals can be overwhelming. Given the many technological advances that have taken place since the turn of the millennium, hospitals can also be places of hope and encouragement.

That’s because of improved patient outcomes due to more refined surgical techniques, as well as to “smarter” medical devices and equipment. Better imaging, such as CT scans, which have continually evolved since they were first used in the 1970s, as well as the growing use of electronic health records and telemedicine, have also contributed to improved patient outcomes and operating efficiencies.

Now more than ever, it seems as if breakthroughs in medical technology are always happening. My sense is that years of R&D for many companies are finally coming to fruition, which means that testing, regulatory approval and field use are happening in relatively large numbers.

Now more than ever, it seems as if breakthroughs in medical technology are always happening.

The Hybird OR

As a designer of ORs, I can tell you from experience that the integration of multiple technologies with one another has led to development of the hybrid OR. This combination of imaginative interior designs and modern equipment run by tech savvy healthcare professionals, many of whom grew up using digital technologies, is helping to make hospitals more efficient.

Compared to traditional ORs, hybrid ORs are often larger because they need to accommodate medical imaging machines (CT scanners, MRI devices) to provide real-time readouts to physicians and nurses, as well as more equipment to allow patients to undergo multiple procedures in a single visit. This arrangement allows patients to receive multiple types of comprehensive care at the same time from a range of specialists, such as surgeons, cardiologists, oncologists, gastroenterologists, anesthesiologists and radiologists.

If designed using best practices, hybrid ORs can be expanded as new equipment comes to market due to technological advances. Today, many cardiovascular surgeons, for example, are working in hybrid ORs. Although such rooms are more expensive than traditional ORs
($2-$4 million vs. $1-$2 million), they’re arguably worth the investment over the long-term because they allow the hospital to provide better care more cost-effectively.

Hybrid ORs are worth the long-term investment.

Often, an investment in hybrid ORs allows a hospital or health network to recruit physicians of a caliber they may not have been able to attract otherwise.

Asset Tracking is Becoming Critical

With hybrid ORs comes the need to manage more equipment, which increases the need for asset tracking. Today, the average hospital lose $4,000-$5,000 worth of equipment and supplies per bed each year through misplacement or shrinkage. By applying technology to inventory management systems, hospitals are able to track every piece of equipment in the facility, and patients no longer have to wait for a procedure because, for example, a nurse was unable to find the necessary device or consumables.

Asset tracking programs can pay for themselves relatively quickly by saving hospitals and healthcare systems hundreds of thousands, or millions, of dollars in shrinkage and lost productivity each year.

Asset tracking programs can pay for themselves relatively quickly…

Likewise, patient tracking is an excellent use of technology because it gives physicians, nurses and staff the ability to know, in real time, where a patient is, what his or her status is relative to a procedure being performed and when he or she should be moved from one room to another.

Tracking software can also include details related to patient records, allowing nurses and other staff know about a patient’s procedure and its resulting temporary limitations. For instance, a nurse would know that a patient just underwent arthroscopic surgery and should not be walking for due to the risk of falling.

To sum up, the quality of technologies used in medicine is improving continually. Those advances are helping to improve efficiency in the OR, as well as improve the business practices of hospitals and health systems and shorten the lengths of patient stays – a winning proposition all the way around.

How has your organization used technology effectively?  Where do you see room for improvement?