Humanizing Healthcare in the Tech Age

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All of this technology enhances our ability to provide high-quality care, often at a reduced cost, but at the same time it can distance us from the human-to-human connection that is essential when caring for patients. As the future of healthcare progresses, all those involved in the process of providing care—clinicians, hospital staff, and the companies that create new healthcare technologies—must keep the idea of humanizing healthcare at the top of their mind. Empathy will need to be our guide as we navigate healthcare’s future.

Velano Vascular

Advanced medical technology and humanized healthcare are not mutually exclusive. Velano Vascular, a  company Intermountain Healthcare has been collaborating with, is set to bring compassion into practice by reworking a common medical procedure—drawing blood—and its associated technologies so that it’s a more pleasant experience for patients.

Together, Intermountain and Velano Vascular teams studied the processes, costs, and implications of multiple blood-draw approaches at various care settings across Intermountain. The results helped to better define costs associated with blood collections and identify beneficial practice variations.

Importantly, the collaboration also implemented use of Velano Vascular’s novel needle-free blood collection technology, which enables blood draws to be taken from the same IV catheter patients have inserted to receive hydration and medication. This multipurpose approach eliminates the need for many needle sticks over the course of a patient’s stay.

The emotions and experiences of patients influenced the development of this technology, intertwining tech and humanized healthcare. The end product is a device and process that reduces unnecessary anxiety and pain for patients and creates a safer work environment for caregivers. 

The Center for Humanizing Critical Care

Humanizing healthcare principles apply to simple care delivery interactions as well. Sam Brown, MD, is the Director of the Center for Humanizing Critical Care at Intermountain Medical Center. The key focus of the center is to help patients and family members make it through life-threatening illnesses and injuries with their humanity intact. “The technologies of intensive care in this country have advanced to an astonishing level, in terms of what we can do to treat people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries,” said Dr. Brown. “We’ve developed powerful medications, life support technologies, surgical techniques, and organizational principles that routinely save people who would’ve died of their illnesses just a few years ago. But we haven’t done a good job in figuring out how to make the ICUs more humane places, where dignity is preserved and patients and their families can feel more in control of what is happening to them during a frightening period in their lives.”

RELATED: Treating Patients as Human Beings

The Center for Humanizing Critical Care is performing research and developing tools that will address this need for thoughtful, human-centered treatment. What medical practitioners can apply now is what Dr. Brown calls “The Dinner Party Rule”—encouraging practitioners to treat patients as they would the respected host of a dinner party. The basic “Dinner Party Rule” guidelines include:

  • Knock before entering a patient’s hospital room or hospital bay 
  • Ask what a patient would like to be called
  • Treat coma patients as if they are listening

Each of these techniques show respect to the patient and help give them some control over their hospital experience. When followed, humanizing healthcare principles help remind medical professionals and healthcare technology developers alike who is at the center of care—people.