It might look like staff at the new St. Elizabeth’s Hospital are looking at their smart phones while they walk the halls and talk to patients, but they’re actually using a handy new tool that is expected to improve communication and make their jobs easier.
The Vocera handheld mobile device is a new tool nurses, doctors and hospital staff alike can use to communicate securely about anything from filling medicine requests to looking up a patient’s medical records. Instead of a pager, medical providers can text one another using the HIPAA-compliant devices.
The main goal is to save everyone time and improve communication, says nurse Courtney Schwartzkopf, who helped coordinate and implement the new phones and the hospital’s new electronic health record system.
The device is just one of several that lend a technological leg-up to both staff and patients at the new hospital. Here are three of the top tools aimed at streamlining a patient’s experience:
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1. Vocera phone
Staff at the former St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville had wireless phones they carried with them, but the devices only functioned as a phone and had no other features. The Vocera phones can be used to text, page, call individuals or whole departments, take and send photos of wounds for doctors, share information in real-time, and look up medical records, all through a secure system.
Schwartzkopf says the devices help streamline processes that previously took up precious time, like filling prescription requests for a patient. Before, nurses or doctors had to request medicine and wait while it was prepared. With the new device, they can order medicine in advance and pick it up when it’s ready, kind of like a Starbucks customer can order in advance with their mobile device.
2. Self check-in kiosk
Outpatients at the hospital for routine procedures can bypass lines at the registration desk by checking in at self-serve kiosks. Two kiosks sit next to the registration desk at the outpatient entrance to the hospital.
The kiosks can scan insurance cards, accept payments and provide information on appointments, including maps of the hospital. The first time patients sign in, they are asked to enter a security question. Privacy screens prevent a passerby from seeing a patient’s medical information. An ultraviolet light automatically cleans the screen of germs and fingerprints, leaving it clean for the next patient.
Shannon King, patient access manager for St. Elizabeth’s, helped design the kiosk. She says patients have been happy with the additional option, but added the kiosk cannot be used to check in for surgeries or other inpatient procedures.
Patients visiting for the following services can use the kiosks to check in: cardiac rehab, cardiology, cath lab, CT, diagnostic imaging, infusion services, interventional radiology, laboratory, mammography, MRI, nuclear medicine, respiratory therapy, ultrasound and vascular lab.
The kiosks are available to patients during regular registration hours, from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Patients arriving after hours should go to the Emergency Department. Labor and delivery patients should go directly to the Womens and Infants Center on the third flood except after hours, when they should go to the Emergency Department.
3. Hospital GPS app
Patients will soon be able to download a mobile phone app they can use to direct them to their destination within the hospital, sort of like a GPS they might use in their car except for a building.
Hospital staff are still working out kinks in the system, but once it is up and running, patients can use the hospital’s guest WiFi to download the app.