Hospital road-testing technology to improve care for future patients

On one Carle unit, nurses are testing wireless technology where the patient wears a sensor on his or her wrist that transmits real-time information to the nurse’s station, eliminating the need for nurses to take vitals manually. This allows patients to get extra rest and gives nurses more time to do their other work.
Sarah Peoples, RN manager, is overseeing the wireless technology test. She said, “I think it’s an exciting time, because the more information we have in front of us the more we can help the patient understand what is going on.”

The technology can alert doctors and nurses if a patient is in distress. “We had an instance where we saw a patient’s blood pressure spike, but, normally, we wouldn’t have taken vitals for another two hours. This time we intervened right away to treat the problem quickly,” Peoples added.

“Technology can help providers to give better, convenient and more efficient health care to patients,” said Michael Sutter, chief innovation officer at Carle. “But, before we decide to adopt the equipment we have to ensure the technology works.”

“The next generation of technology will help people take a more active role in their health care,” said Sutter. “During any pilot program, patient safety and comfort is our highest priority.”

Two other examples of possible pilots at Carle include:

• A smart phone app that can help pediatricians diagnose ear infections. Parents can attach a scope to their smartphone, take a photo of their child’s ear, and email that photo to the doctor. If successful, this technology has the potential to eliminate an in-person visit to the doctor’s office.
• An app that can measure a person’s EKG and other vital heart information. If tested and if successful, this technology could save patients a trip to the doctor’s office – which is especially helpful for patients who live further away or those who find it hard to leave home.

“We must balance the positives of new medical technology with cost and overall effectiveness,” Sutter said. “Not every piece of technology will benefit the patient or be a fit for Carle.”

If technology is adopted for use system-wide, nurses and physicians will be well-trained on the equipment before it is rolled out.

Sutter added, “Once our pilot is complete, we provide feedback to the manufacturer. That allows the company to make improvements. So, even if Carle doesn’t adopt the technology our testing helps companies enhance their product and ultimately help improve care for all in the future.”