SSM Health’s newest hospital campus may be powered by technology, but leaders say those tools will enhance the patient experience.
On September 1, SSM Health opened its doors to the new SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital, a campus that has all the makings of a smart hospital. Although the facility is squarely tech-enabled, that won’t get in the way of the patient experience, SSM Health leaders have asserted.
In fact, it should enhance it, according to Chris Bullerdick, the regional vice president of IT at SSM Health.
“We really set up the technology so that it always allows the provider, the caregiver to be patient-facing,” Bullerdick told PatientEngagementHIT a few days before the grand opening.
Want to publish your own articles on DistilINFO Publications?
Send us an email, we will get in touch with you.
“If our technology goes as planned when this hospital opens with this technology, tech will be so ingrained in the workflows that folks won’t even think about it. That’s the goal, you don’t want to think about the technology, need to worry about the technology. It should just become part of the seamless workflow.”
The project, which came with a $500 million price tag, embedded technology at nearly every step of the patient care journey, all with the intention of empowering the patient and making it easier to navigate care. From a parking garage tool that shows visitors where there are free spaces to a digital whiteboard keeping patients updated on care, the new hospital sought to create a virtual patient experience.
“A lot of the technology is really focused on empowering patients to participate in their care or empowering the provider to more seamlessly provide information to the patient about their care,” Bullerdick explained. “For example, we’re really proud of the fact that we’ve got an interactive patient entertainment system that not only allows patients to watch movies on demand but also allows for some of the foundational entertainment things.”
The interactive system lets patients order their meals online, send an electronic caregiver thank you, read about the healthcare facility, and even watch mass in the Catholic health system’s chapel.
This is also where the patient can access the digital whiteboard, which emerges as a crown jewel in SSM Health’s tech overhaul. The digital whiteboard is linked directly into the EHR, and keeps patients looped into their care throughout their stay.
“If you think about a typical whiteboard or grease board in a patient room where someone comes in with a dry erase marker and writes down some information, typically, ‘hi, I’m your nurse,’ or, ‘hey, you’ve got an appointment at 10:00,’ that kind of thing, we’ve digitized that,” Bullerdick said. “We’ve integrated that with our electronic health record, so that information is kept in real-time.”
These types of technology selections don’t happen in a vacuum; they require serious consideration for both the provider workflow and patient care journey.
“The first step is very simply, you have to listen,” Bullerdick advised. “As an IT organization, we had to listen to what both our providers and more importantly, our patients, were saying to us.”
At SSM Health, the IT team engaged with the multidisciplinary teams imagining new technology and patient engagement options.
“We listened, not just with traditional IT thinking, but really where could we pivot and make some non-traditional type of solutions, like for example, that digital whiteboard,” Bullerdick said. “That didn’t come up as an IT need or an IT gap. Instead, it came up because we didn’t have enough space in the head wall for the traditional whiteboard. We said, ‘how can we make this look a little better and make this a more efficient process?’”
This process continued when considering the patient care journey, too, Bullerdick said. A series of patient advisory council meetings revealed to the IT team what kinds of needs patients had and allowed the IT to conceive of technology solutions.
“We actually stood up mock patient rooms and mock departments, and we put the technology in those rooms and let caregivers and patients get their hands on it,” Bullerdick recounted. “And patients got to see how it actually would look and feel, to be certain that we really were on the right path and that it really was going to be meaningful and enhancing.”
Both of these strategies were built with a series of fail-safes throughout. Like the construction of any major hospital campus, the SSM Health team was worried the decisions they made at the beginning of the building process would not be the best fit for the final product.
“When you build a new hospital, it’s a long process and technology changes quickly,” Bullerdick pointed out. “We put in some toll gates along the way, so that the decisions we made at the beginning of the project, we could revalidate periodically and make sure there wasn’t a better solution or that we couldn’t come up with a better idea or a newer or novel idea that wasn’t available to us when we started.”
But none of those toll gates could have prepared SSM Health for what happened in March. When the novel coronavirus came ashore in the United States, Bullerdick and her team had not prepared for the potential disruptions this could have had on the technology implementation schedule.
“We never considered moving the date,” Bullerdick said. “We really did not want to factor COVID-19 into that date if at all possible, frankly, because we needed to continue providing care.”
But unlike so many other organizations implementing technology in the age of coronavirus, most of which either had to delay launch dates or fall back on a remote implementation, SSM Health saw some perks to launching an entirely new hospital campus. Because the new facility was not in use at the time, it was in fact fairly easy for Bullerdick and her team to operate on-site technology go-lives while still social distancing.
What’s more, the fully-tech enabled hospital is going to be a respite for patients facing strict visitation restrictions because of the disease. The technology, and a massive iPad rollout at other SSM Health facilities, are letting patients stay in touch with loved ones while they are in the hospital with COVID-19 or any other type of medical need.
This circle’s back to SSM Health’s mission to use technology to enhance, not detract from, the patient experience.
That means technology is going to allow transparency into the healthcare process — like the digital whiteboards that update patients on their care teams and medical information in real-time.
“At the heart of it, technology when it’s working at its best and to its fullest potential should be really transparent and not distracting,” Bullerdick stated. “Technology should be an enabler, and in this case, really a patient empowering tool.”
Bullerdick said she and her team paid careful attention to ensure they did not select a technology simply to digitize a process, but rather to make the care experience easier using a patient-centered lens.
“While this campus is really a focus for new technology, it’s not technology just for technology’s sake,” she concluded. “Every piece of technology that we’ve put into this campus has a purpose. That purpose and the goal is to seamlessly integrate and really elevate the patient-provider relationship.”
Source: Patient Engagementhit