Standing at the entrance to the Intelligent Hospital™ Pavilion at the HIMSS13 Conference – waiting for the ribbon ceremony to conclude and let the crowd of eagerly waiting attendees into the exhibit – I couldn’t help but think back to 2007 when several of us from the RFID Technical Institute and the International RFID Business Association began designing the education model for the healthcare environment of the future. The challenge was to envision the overall hospital care process from end-to-end and begin mapping new enabling technologies to the various clinical work methods. We had an arsenal of new auto-identification tools – RFID, RTLS, sensors, etc. – that begged to be incorporated into this challenging, complex setting. Each operational area of the hospital was reviewed for its strengths and weaknesses and then revised by applying a suitable tool that produced benefit – performance improvement and/or risk mitigation. The envisioned hospital work methods model became the basis of the design for educational courseware that prototyped the intelligent hospital experience and provided a framework concept for the development of the pavilion.
As the opening ceremony commenced there was a sense in the audience that something special was about to happen. Then on cue, maneuvering between onlookers, there appeared the newly introduced RP-7i ® Robot from INTOUCH HEALTH – a device combining remote control and remote presence technologies that allows a remote clinician to see and interact with patience and staff. The “robotic physician’s assistant” proceeded toward the pavilion entrance and delivered the ribbon cutting scissors to Paul Frisch, President and CTO of the RFID in Healthcare Consortium (RHCC), to complete the opening ceremony. With that small task facilitated in a creative way the RP-7i aid suddenly became symbolic of greater things to come, not only in the pavilion, but also within the broader healthcare industry. Welcome to our new electronic member of the hospital community!
Once inside the pavilion there was now a sense of déjà vu. Harry Pappas, the Founder and CEO of RHCC, along with Paul Frisch and the other members of the RHCC design team, had taken the Intelligent Hospital vision and turned it into an end-to-end, working clinical prototype!
The working model had been greatly expanded since our initial educational program as new auto-identification tools emerged over recent years. Now included were NFC, biometrics, the ubiquitous wireless mobile tablet and several forms of RTLS to address the varying infrastructure environments throughout the healthcare system.
Entering the pavilion I could not help being drawn to the working emergency response vehicle at the entrance to the demonstration area – the starting point for the Intelligent Hospital simulation. A reception desk acting as the gateway to the glass enclosed series of hospital rooms – ED, Step Down, ICU, Pharmacy, OR and War Room/Data Center – prompted visitors to check with the nurse at the counter to register for sessions of the hospital tour. While waiting to enter for the scheduled event – each room’s simulated clinical scenario taking about 15 minutes for the hospital staff “actors” to perform – a television monitor displayed a video of an emergency newscast describing an auto accident leading to the transfer of injured parties to the Intelligent Hospital for emergency care. This introduction served to initiate the healthcare scenarios and provide context for the application and integration of the various auto-identification technologies into each clinical setting. The Intelligent Hospital handbook, available from the RHHC, goes into detailed explanation about the various clinical processes and technologies suitable for each hospital function.
Strikingly missing in a positive way from the hospital tour was a common focus on the vendors and their solutions. Instead, each room centered on the clinical scenario from a process execution perspective and elaborated on how each type of generic technology enabled a better work method that either improved operational performance, or reduced risk exposure, in patient care.
This wise decision to build the Intelligent Hospital experience around clinical, process-driven technology application points to an important reality in integrating auto-identification tools into this complex environment. As best practice projects have begun teaching implementers and their healthcare clients, auto-ID technologies can be disruptive if not introduced in a holistic people, process and technology manner that addresses organizational re-alignment and change facilitation. As powerful a change agent as RFID, RTLS, sensors and other enablers can be, they are of marginal value if not applied based on revised work processes and supported by proper training to re-orient the work methods of hospital staff.
Seeing the various technologies at work in each hospital scenario greatly helped with envisioning how they can be applied to different healthcare settings. For organizations that are struggling with trying to determine where to get started with auto-identification technologies, envisioning is a very helpful step in jumpstarting an initiative. Past dependency on project “ramp up” methods – incorporating just education programs, case studies and site visits to develop a workable understanding of how to get started – is now fading as the ability to model and prototype solutions is becoming viable as demonstrated with the Intelligent Hospital initiative.
With a further step to the future the Intelligent Hospital Pavilion was expanded this year with the unveiling of Lockheed Martin’s immersive healthcare theater enabling a virtual representation of the Intelligent Hospital experience. The octagonal-shaped structure – designed to deliver surround audio and video on five screens around the perimeter of the enclosure – made its pavilion debut with a show telling the story of how systems integration, modeling and simulation can be applied to help facilitate the envisioning of solution scenarios. With this dynamic new facility now available we are a short step away from leveraging this environment for educational training programs and workshops to help further fuel the great momentum building with auto-identification solution design and implementation.
Gene Fedors is the Director of Education Programs for the RHCC. Formerly the Vice President of Education Services for the RFID Technical Institute and consultant to the International RFID Business Association, he now oversees the development of healthcare education solutions incorporating auto-identification technologies. With 30 years of experience in business/technology strategic planning, work process re-design and technology implementation, Mr. Fedors brings a holistic people, process and technology approach to architecting performance improvement and risk mitigation programs.