Alliance hospital uses tablets to assist in patient care

08/26/2014 12:00 AM

08/25/2014 9:11 PM

Jessica Adkins, cradling her newborn son, Kaden, to her chest, said she appreciates being able to order meals, watch movies on demand and make her room cooler, all without leaving the comfort of her hospital bed.

Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Alliance provides its patients with a touchscreen tablet, mounted on a swing arm near the bed, to perform various tasks.

Besides being able to adjust the room temperature, patients can use the tablets to call for a nurse, check medical files for lab results and appointment dates, browse the Internet, read health articles and log into apps such as Skype and Netflix.

“I’ve ordered my food. I’ve had fights with my husband about the temperature,” Adkins said, laughing. Kaden’s big sister, Kaylee, has also enjoyed using the hospital’s tablet technology. “With my 3-year-old, we were able to play Frozen and stop it and rewind it to her favorite songs. It was great.”

The tablets, connected to the hospital’s admission department, also include patient-specific information, such as menu options that comply with their dietary restrictions and educational material about their medical conditions.

The Alliance hospital, which is just east of Interstate 35W in north Fort Worth, says it is the first in the United States to use the patient-friendly tablet technology.

“That is something for our patients so they have more control over their environment and can participate in their care,” hospital President Winjie Tang Miao said. “We all know the more involved a patient is in their care, the faster they get out of the hospital, which is what they want.”

Tracking devices in place

The tablets aren’t the only tools Texas Health Alliance has implemented to enhance patients’ experience, Miao said. The 56-bed hospital, which opened in 2012 and is the newest in the Texas Health Resources system, is also using real-time tracking devices to keep tabs on equipment, patients and medical staff. The tags allow the hospital to quickly locate equipment, such as wheelchairs and specialty beds that are frequently moved from floor to floor, and to evaluate whether units have appropriate staffing. The tracking devices also help the hospital quickly determine who on the medical staff might have been exposed to a patient with a contagious illness, such as measles or meningitis.

“We can target and make sure everybody who was exposed to that patient is not at risk and if they are at risk gets the treatment that they need,” Miao said.

Digital signs near a patient’s room door now automatically display medical alerts, such as whether patients are at risk of falling down because of the medication they are taking or whether they shouldn’t have anything to eat or drink because of a pending surgery. Previously, nurses and other staffers would have to locate paper signs to hang on the doors with that information. Those types of tasks can be forgotten in the rush of answering other patient demands, Miao said.

‘It’s pretty impressive’

Alliance will also begin offering handheld tablets to patients to use while they are waiting for services in the Emergency Department.

Other Texas Health Resources hospitals are evaluating Alliance’s technology for possible implementation, Miao said. The digital signs, for example, will be installed at all new and remodeled facilities, she said.

Lounging in a hospital room recliner, Russell Adkins said he’s enjoyed being able to quietly watch movies on the tablet while his wife and Kaden rest.

“It’s pretty impressive. For the husbands, it’s nice to have the big-kid toy,” Adkins said. “You have your own entertainment system.”

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