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Hospital rooms of the future smarter

Technology focuses on increasing efficiency

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The hospital room of the future is more interactive, integrated and efficient.

An example of such a room, developed by Cerner Corp., a health-care information technology company, was showcased at the University of Utah's School of Medicine on Monday.

To ensure efficiency, all staff members in the room of the future will wear a badge that will have information about their job code, solutions consultant Gayle Romack said. The badge is scanned when a staffer enters a patient's room. Information is sent to the patient

via computer screen about who just entered.

If a doctor enters the room, the patient's records are automatically shown on the screen. The doctor can update the patient's information immediately, including adding orders. A nurse entering can check a patient's medicine history and needs. If someone from housekeeping enters the room, the monitor would display only information pertinent to that job, such as whether the patient wears dentures or eyeglasses.

All devices in the room are integrated, including IV pumps. Romack said the most common error a nurse makes is programming the IV pump. The new system is linked to the IV pump, eliminating the need for nurses to program it.

"It takes that human-error component out of it," Romack said.

She said a nurse validates that a doctor ordered the contents of the IV, giving another layer of protection to the patient.

"I've lived through a medication error in my organization," Romack said, noting it was an error that caused the death of three infants. "This is going to save lives. There's no doubt in my mind."

Fern Malila, senior solutions consultant, showed a new way to dispense medication. Since the medicine tower is integrated in the system, when a doctor prescribes medication, the prescription is entered directly into the computer. When it's time to dispense a medication, a nurse brings up a patient's information on the computer. The nurse selects the desired medication, which triggers a drawer to open on the drug cabinet. Within the drawer are various bins, each containing different medicines and dosages. Only the bin with the right medicine will open.

"This is very different from most towers," Malila said, which allow access to all medications in the drawer.

The nurse removes the blister-packed medication with a barcode affixed to it. When the nurse dispenses the medication, it is scanned with a handheld scanner as well as the nurse's armband and the patient's armband. The scanner tells the nurse if it is the proper medication for the proper patient, which reduces human error.

"It takes out all the pieces that allow breakdown," Romack said.

Patients have a lot of control in their rooms. They can lower and raise shades; turn lights on or off; order food; and access video games, education, surveys and mapping services, all controlled "right from the comfort of their bed," Romack said.

E-mail: lwilde@desnews.com