Patient Technology and Health Informatics I’ve Experienced First-Hand

October 28, 2015

7:39 pm

Over the course of the year, I’ve been exposed to more technology related to healthcare than I ever would have imagined. My otherwise completely healthy father has seen a string of heart issues and that’s kept him in and out of hospitals all year.

During these hospital stays I saw all kinds of highly-technical medical equipment used on my father. It was during this time that the concept of modern health informatics and tech started to sink in.

According to Cincinnati Health Informatics Online Program Director, Victoria Wangia, health informatics is defined as :

“the balance between health information, information technology, and patient care. It involves use of health data management, healthcare and information policies, and workflow and process modeling.”

The new era of healthcare is currently unfolding with informatics and rapidly increasing patient tech at the forefront. We are fortunate to live in the time that we do. Medical technology is progressing at a staggering, exponential rate. The result is incredible care to patients with modern conveniences and treatment for illnesses and diseases that were previously deemed as incurable.

The Modern Hospital Bed

Take something as simple as a hospital bed for example. The idea itself is extremely straight-forward: a bed for patients to sleep in. In spite of that, beds in hospitals are becoming increasingly tech based. It’s a basic concept with many contemporary advancements.

Hospital beds now have integrated scales and other digital displays. They are more portable, more comfortable, and offer more convenient features for patients. My father’s hospital bed was fully streamlined. He was able to control everything from the lights, to the smart TV, to the curtains and phone with his bedside handset. This idea has been around for years with nurse call buttons being a regular thing. However, the bedside and handheld capabilities that now exist are more encompassing than ever.

Even Wheelchairs Have Changed

Everything in the medical tech world is evolving down to the most fundamental pieces of equipment, such as the wheelchair. When my father was wheeled into the hospital I was surprised by the way his wheelchair looked. It had a much different appearance than typical wheelchairs and the smaller wheels actually made it easier to push around.

GravesWheelchair

Wheelchair designed by Michael Graves

Healthcare, There’s Apps for That

In a world where smartphones outnumber cars, there is an app for literally everything. In fact there are roughly 4 million unique smartphone apps available today. Within the smartphone demographic, one in five people have at least one health app on their phone. 

While my father was hospitalized, I decided to utilize the Health app on my iPhone for the first time. I was astounded at how dense, yet cohesive the app is. I was able to completely establish a heart healthy diet, a simple yet effective workout regimen, and a sleep agenda for my father. These were all areas that he had been struggling with, so having an app that acts as a friendly reminder is extremely useful.

Arizona State University student Kacee Roberson recently created a very beneficial smartphone app for taking charge of personal healthcare. Her app InMotion, is designed to help people remember crucial information about doctors visits and checkups, as well as documenting specifics for pre and post-operation procedures. Roberson is an innovator and her app has helped keep record of some extremely important information in my life already.   

Security In Every Sense of The Word

As medical technology progresses so does the need for added security measures. Although I was not familiar with the out of town hospital I was at, there were many important security measures that I recognized instantly.

At a glance it was apparent to me that the hospital was designed with security in mind. The way that the patient towers were built seemed very safe and secluded. There was no easy way to get there if a person didn’t understand the complex route to the patient rooms. It required taking two separate elevators and walking down a very long underground hallway.

Once at the front door of the patient towers, a phone sits near the front entrance. Visitors pick up and talk with a front desk worker inside the patient towers. They are able to view everything that is happening outside of the main entrance via HD 360 degree cameras.

Video Conferencing in Hospital Rooms

Patients today prefer hospitals with a high level of awareness and accelerated technology. In turn, hospitals provide exceptional levels of patient experience and provide the highest quality care possible. One unique was this is attained is through video conferencing.

Also known as telehealth, this concept uses video and audio communication through the patient’s television in their rooms. The hospital my father was at was a pilot program for this progressive form of medical tech.  

The first step for setting up video conferencing in hospital rooms is to replace all of the standard televisions with smart TV’s. A small video calling interface that almost resembles a cable or satellite TV box is plugged into the smart TV. A 360 degree high definition camera is used to relay video and high quality audio from the patient rooms. This process was seamless. Even though this is a recent development, the fresh idea was executed perfectly.

The interfaces have a bright blue light that flashes when a video call is inbound. My father and I were part of a few test calls with an operator, as well as a doctor. Having this type of round the clock availability offers an added sense of security to patients. A highly qualified doctor is literally seconds away, despite any level of distance that actually exists.

While hospital visits are often times frightening and unexpected, the modern advancements that have been made help create a more comfortable environment for patients. Rapidly expansive patient tech creates an ever-expanding comfort level for everyone involved and the future looks bright for advancements in patient-centered technology.

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Robert Parmer is a freelance web writer, a student at Boise State University, and a chef. Besides writing and reading avidly, he enjoys creating and recording music, caring for his pet cat, and commuting by bicycle whenever possible. Follow him on Twitter @robparmer

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