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High-tech hospital room monitors mix movies, medical care


TVs in your hospital room are so yesterday.

In the near future, flat-screen terminals mounted on the wall or near your bedside may offer a lot more than entertainment. Patients will be able to surf the Internet, order their meals, communicate with nurses and view their latest X-rays — all through interactive patient care systems.

Educational videos on managing medical conditions, prescription orders and medical records all can be flashed on the same screen where patients view dozens of television channels and just-released movies.

“The nice thing is it really puts the patient in the driver’s seat,” said Gary Harper, a registered nurse specializing in information management and communication at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center in Riviera Beach, Fla., where 259 high-tech terminals should arrive by year’s end. “And it will help the nurses give even better care.”

West Palm Beach VA is one of six veterans hospitals in Florida that are scheduled to have systems installed in the next year, according to GetWellNetwork Inc., the Maryland technology company handling the project.

Hospital technology experts predict interactive systems, which have been around for more than a decade, will start taking off for one simple reason: They make patients happier. And that could make a big difference to a hospital’s bottom line.

Medicare now collects patient satisfaction data and cuts reimbursements for facilities performing poorly, said Nathan Larmore, a principle and practice leader at Sparling, a Seattle-based technology consulting firm advising the health care industry.

And using interactive tools to get patients more involved in their care also should reduce hospital readmissions, Larmore said, which is another factor affecting reimbursements.

“In the past, hospitals looked at bedside technologies that improved a patient’s experiences as luxuries. But once they were mandated to focus on patient satisfaction, there was renewed interest,” Larmore said. “Hospitals being built in the last eight years are starting to look more like hotels, which is the industry where some of this technology has come from.”

Larmore estimates about 10 percent to 15 percent of acute care hospitals nationwide currently have interactive patient terminals. Cost has been the reason many have held back, he said, as systems can run “several hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars” per room.

Many of the early adopters have been children’s hospitals, he said, “because kids focus on their environment and adapt to the technology.”


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