University of Iowa Children's Hospital puts patient experience first

By Mike Miliard
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Patient engagement is important and the healthcare experience – particularly in inpatient settings – is increasingly seen by providers as a critically valuable priority.

At University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital, for instance, kids can control their own room – not just TV and bedside entertainment, but the lighting, meal ordering, nurse communication and more. With new in-room systems, the hospital has helped its small charges make the most of their stay, brightening their environment and offering easier ways to contact nurses. The technology also offers valuable functionality for grownups too – both parents and hospital staff.

The bedside tech from Oneview Healthcare helps UI’s hospital reduce patient stress and frustration, and allow for more constructive nurse workflows.

The days of bed-ridden patients having access to little more than a nurse call button and TV remote control are increasingly a thing of the past. More and more hospitals are investing in state-of-the-art systems that allow easy communication of relevant healthcare information, online recovery goal-setting tools, Skype capabilities, even video games.

Touch-screen technology such as Oneview's suite – which integrates with UI Health Care's electronic health record – free up nurse and hospital staff to focus on the most important tasks and improves patient experience. The hospital's patient experience scores have already increased from the 40th to 89th percentile in just the past year.

When UI Health Care decided to build a new children's hospital, the C-suite immediately saw an opportunity to "design and build an experience that was going to be delightful for the patient, the family – as well as the care providers," said UI Health Care Chief Medical Information Maia Hightower, MD. 

There's been big advancements in in-room technology systems, she said, and for a hospital that's starting from the ground up, there's a "chance to make the bold decision to redesign your space to meet patient needs – not only meet them but exceed expectations and create an engaging environment."

Beyond just "entertainment and convenience," Hightower added, the aim was to create a "really special experience for the patient."

And not just for the patient. The system has been a boon for staff efficiency too.

"If the patient is in pain, they can push the pain button, and the message goes to the nurse's phone and they can respond," said nurse informaticist Pamela Kunert. "In the old hospital, the patient would push the call button and no one would know what the patient wanted, so the nursing assistant would often go to find out and would then have to report back to the nurse. This way, the nurse can see (in real time) that the patient is in pain, they can go get something to help."

When designing a new hospital, there's big opportunity to avoid the pitfalls of a prior era. Hightower pointed out that two of the hallmarks of poor hospital design is too much noise (the constant beeping alerts and alarms) and harsh lighting.

"The number of alarms have been reduced," said Hightower. For instance, the IV pump alert doesn't go to patients, it gets alerted to the nurse or medical assistant, and the same with monitors. Moreover, patients can control the lighting, their window shades, even their diet. "The Oneview tool allows them to place their diet choices on the menu, just as if you were ordering off a regular menu. It's all digital."

At UI Children's Hospital, every patient room is equipped with what staff calls "Drew’s Lamp," named after a cancer patient there who had brought a lamp from home because he enjoyed ambient lighting. The set-up includes seven cube-shaped fixtures mounted in rows above the television. Patients can control them with a bedside remote, adjusting them in combinations of 11 color, pattern and brightness settings.

The original Drew's Lamp "was just a regular lamp," said Kunert. "But it was something he could control. With all the procedures and tests there's a loss of control. But this was something he could control."

Another functionality of the in-room system is to give parents more of a sense of order and control. At an academic medical center such as UI Health Care, said Hightower, a patient might have "20, 30, 40 people in and out of a room on a given day. They don't always know who those people are. So we have an RTLS-enabled locator devices connected with Oneview, so when a physician or nurse or housekeeping walks in, a picture of that person is displayed, along with their title and their role. It provides important information to the families, that these people are supposed to be in the room."

And for those parents who are unable to be in the room, those who live far away or have to return to work in the midst of their child's extended hospital stay, the in-room system offers Skype capabilities.

"Because we have kids from all over Iowa and surrounding states, kids can audio and video with their parents," said Kunert. "Or parents, if they have a baby here and have to go back to work, can have the nurses put the computer or tablet next to the baby and be able to see the baby."

Oneview CEO James Fitter said there's a clear benefit to partnerships like the one with UI Health Care, where patients are given the "information and tools they need, when they need them, so they can participate in their own care.

"Technology should make care experiences more simple and less complex," he said. "Rather than adding to the healthcare team's workload, technology should empower providers to focus on what they do best: Care for patients."

One major patient experience feature at UI Children's Hospital has little do with technology, however. The hospital, which is designed in the oblong shape of a football and sits adjacent to the UI Hawkeyes' Kinnick Stadium, has floor-to-ceiling windows to look down upon the gridiron.

After the first quarter of every Iowa home game, everyone in the stadium – the crowd of 70,500-plus spectators, the players and staff from both teams – all turn toward the hospital and wave to the kids who are able to make it up to the 12th floor to watch.

Experiences like that can motivate patients in an ineffable way, said Hightower. "Kids wait all week for game day," she said.
Hightower and Kunert will offer a case study showing how it is deploying technology to improve the experience and hospital environment for some of its most important patients at the HIMSS18 Patient Engagement & Experience Summit, which takes place March 5 at the Wynn in Las Vegas.