Imagine the hospital of the future. What do you see? Robots? Full body scanners the size of a pen? Maybe you think of Star Trek and the space age "Sick Bay" where crew members can be treated for different illnesses and conditions with the push of a button. Perhaps you envision devices that can communicate with each other or large flat screen monitors that show vast amounts of information in easy to read displays.
What about smart beds that can quickly determine how the patient is really feeling at that moment, both physically and emotionally? Or bed-side education kiosks that deliver critical information that patients can easily understand as they make their way through a training module? Think this too far-fetched? I used to think such an integrated, electronic experience in a hospital or a healthcare clinic wasn’t possible. Now, I know that vision is much closer to reality than we might imagine. Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to tour the Cerner Experience Theatre at Cerner’s world headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri.
A background on Cerner
Cerner is health information technology company and the leader in the electronic health record market. Currently, it’s estimated that Cerner is licensed in approximately 9,300 facilities around the world, including more than 2,650 hospitals, 3,750 physician practices, and 500 ambulatory facilities. Cerner is also installed in such facilities as laboratories, ambulatory centers, cardiac centers, radiology clinics, and surgery centers. 800 home health facilities, 40 employer sites, and 1,600 retail pharmacies have also installed Cerner solutions. Over 40,000 physicians use at least one Cerner product in their daily work. Cerner’s Annual Report has additional stats on the overall electronic health record market. Cerner’s mission is to improve the system-wide health care delivery model and enhance the overall health of communities. Cerner has published a great deal on Meaningful Use and Health Care Reform. The Cerner Experience Theatre puts all this into practice.
The Cerner Experience Theatre
I attended the Partnership with Patients Summit and Cerner was the main sponsor for the event. All summit participants had the option to visit Cerner’s Experience Theatre, and I’m thrilled I had the chance to go. The Tour follows a fictional patient named “Walter” through a shortness of breath episode. Walter is a 70 year old gentleman with a history of cardiac issues and diabetes. On this particular day, Walter is out for a walk with his friends and begins to feel run down and short of breath. Walter wears a medical device, similar to watch, that tracks his current heart rate, blood oxygen levels, blood pressure, and other vital signs. His tracking watch continuously beams this information to a telehealth command center. Our tour starts in this simulated telehealth command post. Walter’s telehealth nurse is alerted to changes in Walter’s breathing rate and heart rate. His oxygen levels are low and his heart rate is high. Given Walter’s medical history, the telehealth nurse quickly alerts Walter, via text and messaging to his iPad that he needs to call in as soon as possible. The telehealth nurse is able to schedule a time for a home health visit. Walter gets the message and participates in a home health visit. The decision is made to get Walter to the hospital immediately – bypassing the emergency room. The home health care providers can collect and send all the relevant information from the visit directly to your electronic health record. This new information is sent directly to Walter’s doctors to alert them to changes in his current condition. Imagine knowing that your data is being used in a proactive way, not a reactive way. Decisions can be made based on the most current data, available instantly. To me, it was amazing to think that this level of integration can exist. A nurse watching over your data stream, analyzing information as it comes in, and making real-time clinical decisions based on this information? Add smart devices that can alert you to impending critical health situations and you have an incredible healthcare safety net following you wherever you go. As the tour progress, a quick review of the hospital’s current patient load shows there’s room for Walter to be admitted right away. The cost savings of bypassing the emergency room in cases similar to Walter’s is estimated to be $10,000. Walter is admitted, assessed by his medical team, and given medications and started on fluids. The tour ends in Walter’s simulated hospital room. Two very interesting solutions were highlighted at this part of the tour: A smart dispensing cabinet for medications and a smart hospital bed. The smart medicine dispensary is an electronically controlled unit that prevents unauthorized medicines from being unlocked and administered. This helps eliminate potentially fatal drug errors. The best part of the tour was learning about the smart hospital bed. As a 20 year cancer survivor, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the hospital and I can certainly say that a “smart hospital bed” would be a great improvement. The smart bed tracks vital signs, patient’s weight, and other stats. You can learn more about the smart bed that was designed in partnership with Hill-Rom in this review from the Kansas City Business Journal.
In the end, Walter recovers from his shortness of breath episode and is released from the hospital. The tour highlighted the potential for an improved patient experience based on coordinated data access, integrated clinical information, and seamless transitions from one mode of care to another. This was truly healthcare of the future.
For this vision to become a reality, more physicians and healthcare providers need to begin the journey toward meaningful use. Cerner is doing an incredible job at working toward building the premier healthcare experience of the future, today. The importance of health information exchanges, electronic health records, and coordinated care were all on display in this tour. To make seamless transitions from one clinic to another, they need to be connected. It’s as simple as that. If hospitals are not on the same electronic health record system, connecting via a health information exchange or other messaging service becomes that much more important. To me, this was the biggest takeaway from this tour. Electronic Health Records are really making a difference. To take healthcare to the next level, the connectivity needs to be addressed.
Thank you Cerner for the opportunity to visit your offices and see this incredible facility!