‘S-HERTOGENBOSCH, Netherlands — Nov. 14, 2012 — Along with limited cable television options, two-inch-thick stacks of paper affixed to messy clipboards have long been a feature of large hospitals in the developed world.
Now one Dutch hospital has come up with a way to stem the tide of paper-based medical records — and make some other welcome improvements to the patient experience along the way.
Jeroen Bosch Hospital, a new medical center in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, has installed 800 touch screen terminals connected into an intelligent system anchored by Windows Embedded. The system is designed to enhance healthcare by enabling hospital staff and patients to communicate and share information more efficiently.
The terminals connect with the outside world via the Internet, as well as the hospital’s own information systems. Though designed to be used by patients for entertainment and communication, they are also a powerful tool for hospital staff, helping provide a secure way to access a comprehensive view of the patient’s history, including lab results, care provided by local practitioners, the most recent treatment at the hospital and billing information.
At a time when the world’s population is aging and medical-care budgets are carefully scrutinized, the solution is designed to help the hospital provide better patient care while also controlling rapidly rising medical costs. But according to Cor-Jan van der Wal, director of Services and Facilities at the hospital, it’s also about creating a collaborative environment where medical staff members are all on the same page and patients become partners in their own care.
“We wanted to deliver personalized information to patients at their bedside, so that we could plan treatment together,” says van der Wal. “Although this is high technology, it also enables the human connections that are so important to well-being.”
The displays can be used by patients for Internet access, multimedia entertainment and communication. When patients sign on, they gain immediate access to television, radio and other entertainment media. The terminals also feature telephony through VoIP and can be enabled for Skype functionality so patients can video chat with friends and family during their stay. The terminals can also be set up to allow patients to select meals and call nurses or connect to the outside world through email and instant messages.
The solution was built and implemented by Patientline, the leading Dutch provider of hospital bedside technologies. According to Piet Knol, co-owner of Patientline, Microsoft software was chosen for multiple reasons, including optimal connectivity with a variety of systems, better manageability and superior ease-of-use with a familiar interface.
“We chose to build this infrastructure with Microsoft technology because of its rich support for multimedia, its stability and the depth of the partner ecosystem,” Knol says. “Fantastic stuff happens when the operating system and its drivers help us connect a system like this to the outside world.”
Web-based applications run on IIS servers, and user credentials are maintained in SQL Server data management software. The entire back-end solution runs on Windows Server at the centrally managed Patientline datacenter, which helps hospitals control costs and ease administration while maintaining strict privacy and security controls, which are vital in a hospital setting.
“We have built an infrastructure that remotely manages our installations, which are currently used in half of the hospitals in the Netherlands, including Jeroen Bosch,” says Knol. “This has allowed Patientline to cut ongoing IT maintenance costs by 40 percent.”
Using radio frequency identifier (RFID) tags embedded in staff ID badges and single sign-on services, doctors and nurses can immediately validate their credentials and access relevant patient records, including diagnostic images, on the same terminals.
“When a medical specialist visits a patient, in the past she would have a paper dossier under her arm,” says Knol. “She would be walking through the building with this stack of paper. This system uses RFID technology to identify professionals and allow medical specialists to sign into the multimedia terminals, where they can access a professional workplace and review each patient’s highly specific dossier.”
With all these new capabilities, perhaps the one with the most potential to transform healthcare is the ability of the system to extend beyond hospital walls. By connecting up-to-the-minute records with primary care physicians, physical therapy facilities and other health vendors outside the hospital, patients can benefit from a healthcare continuum that includes their own family doctor, the hospital and the home.
“When you take advantage of an intelligent system powered by Windows Embedded, the physical building isn’t as important,” says van der Wal. “It’s not about the hospital, it’s not about a bed — It’s about the concept of a partnership with the patient that starts at the home and continues through the lifecycle of care. We believe that the outcome is a healthier patient and less visits to the hospital, which is ultimately our goal.”