Mobile tech in the hospital: A patient’s perspective

St JosephsA hospital stay early this year gave me a good look at a system employed to ensure good patient care. The smartphone was an integral part of this system.

This year started for me with an expected hospital stay in Houston. The care I received from St. Joseph’s Hospital was top-notch which was a factor of a patient care system the hospital had recently implemented. My extended stay afforded me a good look at the system in action, and how mobile tech played a big role.

The system is multi-platform, consisting of Windows PCs and Android smartphones. Patient care begins at admission, with the file started at check-in. The patient wrist band is a big part of the system, as it has an embedded chip that has the patient’s identity along with any special information about his/her conditions. I would soon discover that this wrist band factored in everything the healthcare staff would do.

Smartphones were used continually in treating the patient. Each phone was encased in a special case full of sensors. Each nurse would pick one up at the beginning of each shift and once they logged into the phone it was marked in the system who had which phone. Who had which phone would be known to the system for the entire shift, at which time the nurse would log out and place it on the charging stand before heading out for the day.

To prevent errors, every time a nurse entered the patient’s room the phone was used to scan the wrist band. Since the system knew which patient the nurse was supposed to see, when scanned the phone would light up and beep to indicate the correct patient was seen. The wrong patient would be immediately known and the phone would not respond, letting the nurse know before anything was done or entered into the system.

Once the correct identify had been verified, the nurse would go about their business. This usually consisted of checking vital signs which was done several times per day. This was done with in-room equipment that worked with the phone to record the current situation. Patient temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and blood oxygen level were all checked and the results beamed to the phone where the values were duly logged directly into the patient’s file.

In my case blood glucose level had to be closely monitored and this was done a few hours prior to meal time. This was particularly interesting to me as the process was different than I would do it at home. A finger prick exposed a drop of blood which was checked by bringing the phone close to it. The phone would beep when complete and the level would be entered into my record. This was used to calculate the amount of insulin to be administered based on the doctor’s orders.

For other medications the system worked in a slightly different way. The medication nurse would check the record to see what drugs and how much were to be administered. At the nurse’s station these would be ordered from the hospital pharmacy in plenty of time before they were due to be administered to the patient.

At medication time, this nurse would enter the patient’s room with a laptop on a rolling cart. After the wrist band scan the medicine would be administered, pills, IV, and injections. This would be entered into the patient’s record on the laptop.

The entire system was designed so that the main patient record was always up-to-date and accurate. Mistakes would be flagged before they happened, and patient care was great as a result.

This care extended all the way to dismissal time, as a final wrist band scan was made before heading out the door to make sure the right patient was being let go.

The system worked very well in practice and ensured three things: patient privacy, accuracy, and good patient care. What I experienced during my stay left me with the feeling that my care was top-notch and I’d have no problem recommending this hospital to others.

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