Designing the Hospital of the Future

By Fred Holston

The Intermountain Healthcare Transformation Lab team has been pioneering new technologies to improve patient care for several years. Now the lab will partner with Intermountain’s Alta View Hospital to help bring more of those ideas and inventions to life—tearing down walls and radically rethinking the layout and experience of hospital care.

Intermountain Healthcare Transformation Lab

Intermountain’s mission is at the center of the transformation. While those involved say no idea is off limits, they also want to emphasize that every proposed change will be rooted in the goal of improving patient care and satisfaction, caregiver efficiency and morale, and cost savings. Nothing we’re proposing is earth-shattering --- these are relatively simple things, but collectively they can transform the patient’s experience.

The partnership will begin with eight patient rooms in Alta View’s Acute Care Unit. Several rooms have already been gutted as architects begin drawing up plans. Construction is expected to begin in the next few months. With a new layout, wiring, and technology infrastructure in place, Transformation Lab partners will begin to introduce new technologies and innovations. The first ideas on the table include:

  • A layout that’s more spacious and comfortable for the patient and family but also more efficient for caregivers.
  • “Premise aware” technology that can track where patients, caregivers, and equipment are at all times. “It can tell us instantly that a room needs new equipment or cleaning. It can sense when a doctor enters the room and automatically turn up the lights and bring up patient records on the computer,” said Holston.
  • Better communication tools. This may be a handheld device such as a tablet or a large display mounted on the wall. Patients will be able to make entertainment choices, see what’s for dinner, control the lights and temperature in their room, talk with their nurse, do patient education, or open a video communication link to family at home or to a medical interpreter. All this information could be presented in English or easily switched to Spanish or another language.
  • Technologies that talk to each other, so vital signs are automatically captured and charted, for example.
  • A quieter room. The lab is looking at everything from special ceiling tiles and insulation to sound-dampening paint.
  • New approaches to clinical charting, so that technology helps complete the task, freeing a caregiver to focus on the patient.
  • Better alarm management.

Ideas a little farther down the road may include using UV light to help clean a room, digitally displaying a patient’s daily schedule in real-time (including planned physician visits, imaging appointments, and medication schedule), new medication delivery options, a rooftop garden, and water recycling/rainwater retention.

The Transformation Lab is a team of electrical and software engineers, project managers and “sherpas,” and creative “dreamers”—all committed to innovation that improves care. The lab has partnered with industry pioneers such as founding members Xi3, Cerner, and Intel—and collaborators such as Dell and Vocera—to develop ideas that can help transform healthcare. The lab is located adjacent to the Intermountain Medical Center campus.