By John Cooper
Healthcare facilities have evolved over the last several decades to meet the ever-changing needs of providers and patients – as well as the advancing technology landscape. The COVID-19 pandemic did nothing but further push this landscape toward more technological solutions, putting even more technology in hospitals for day-to-day operations. Navigating dynamic, complex technology needs, vendors and options, and integrating the right solutions into new and existing facilities has become a common challenge for hospital administrators.
Technology can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, technological advancements are helping healthcare facilities around the world catapult the level of care they can provide their patients. However, if the technology is not working or integrated properly, the patient and caregiver experience can and often falls apart. In simpler terms, you can have a cutting-edge, state-of-the-art hospital but the entire operation fails if a patient’s need isn’t addressed in a timely manner, or the phones don’t work.
To avoid this problem, hospital administrators and design and construction partners should incorporate technology discussions and design as early as possible in the planning of renovations and new builds. But the number of unique vendors to coordinate and options to consider during design and construction are countless, and most hospital IT departments are already at full capacity managing and maintaining the day-to-day operations of the hospital.
JE Dunn, one of the largest healthcare facility builders in the country, recognizes both the opportunities and the challenges with designing and seamlessly incorporating technology into facility investments. As the technical aspects of hospitals become more complex, they are emphasizing this step in the building process more than ever and partnering with the healthcare experts at Aptitude: Intelligent Integration, a technology integration and installation firm, on many projects.
Especially in today’s environment, with consumer preferences and expectations growing, and caregiver burnout at all-time highs, optimizing both the patient and caregiver experience is priority number one. The good thing for hospitals is the two groups work off one another, so you can affect the happiness of both parties if the right adjustment is made. If you have happy caregivers, that translates to better care for their patients, which in turn leads to better scores for the hospital. When designing a new or revised technology map for a healthcare facility there are four different pillars that must be accounted to meet the needs of the patient and caregiver:
- Safety & Security
- Business and Clinical Operations
- Engage & Interactive
- Basic Building Function
Each area is complex and plays a vital role in a patient and hospital staffer’s experience in and around the facility. The goal of any integrated technology system is to take all four areas and simplify them, delivering a consolidated ‘big-picture view’ of the building for the hospital staff.
From power consumption, life safety and security, nurse call and clinical workflow stations, and occupant use, to medical records, performance metrics and system futureproofing, we can take in as much information as possible to establish methods, assets, and goals needed to enhance a healthcare building’s functions and support the needs of everyone associated with it. In doing so, hospitals in return benefit from higher operational efficiency, lower costs, and a better patient experience that translates to higher scores.
Even then, it is often the simplest changes can make the biggest impact for patients. For example, Williamson Medical Center (WMC) recently began a renovation and expansion that included modernizing its facility. WMC decided to add technology like USB outlets to family areas in patient rooms as well as waiting rooms, make TV’s compatible for streaming direct from their own smart device and having engagement systems in a patient’s room to provide patients and guests with the little touches we’ve all grown accustomed to in our digital world. If you have come to expect charging stations at a retail store or in the airport, for example, patients expect these same accommodations while at the hospital—a place where their personal comfort and care is priority number one.
Taking this a step further by way of technology integration, engagement systems can also be linked with the patient’s medical records. By utilizing information the hospital already has about their patient through their medical records, WMC can provide the patient with customized food recommendations that meet their dietary needs or rehabilitation tips while they recover, all from the engagement system in the patient’s room.
The technology upgrades that WMC is implementing also greatly benefit their hospital staff. For example, a full integration between a nurse call and patient engagement system will help decipher what the patient needs and who from, allowing hospitals to better utilize their nurses’ time and reduce the amount of ‘alarms’ during a shift. System integrations help hospital’s run more efficiently, even more important given today’s national nursing shortage, and help patients get access to care faster. The healthcare industry has already seen shifts like these in the form of telehealth services, connecting patients to providers online in record time.
As the digital landscape continues to progress and the healthcare industry continues to adapt to these changes, it’s vitally important that builders, developers, facility managers, and hospital administrators understand how to integrate technology and have those discussions very early in the design process, so they don’t miss valuable opportunities to optimize their investments or create new problems. Having the technology at your hospital is half the battle, the other half is making sure it all works together. Whether you’re creating a technology design for a new hospital or modernizing an older one, it is critical that the patient journey and caregiver experience are kept top of mind. The benefits patients and hospital staffs receive when technology is properly integrated are typically gone unseen, but that’s a good thing. If it is noticed, it is likely because something has gone wrong, and that misstep will have a tremendous impact on what the patient and caregivers will remember in the end.
John Cooper is Operations Director for Aptitude: Intelligent Integration, a provider of digital and physical connectivity solutions that use a unique combination of tailor-made design processes and cutting-edge technology to deliver connected built environments for commercial real estate. Leveraging the insight and experience of over a century in design-build, Aptitude manages the full scope of building connectivity, helping owners and operators lower costs, increase efficiencies and get more value out of their properties through innovative, goal-oriented building development and management. Founded in 2021, Aptitude is headquartered in Atlanta, GA, and maintains offices across the United States. For more information, visit aptitudeii.com.