Marshall Medical Centers serves the residents of Marshall County (Alabama) and the surrounding area with a population of about 125,000. Healthcare is changing with new government regulations raising the bar for local hospitals who are finding mergers and partnerships as a way to combine resources and focus on technology to improve patient satisfaction. Technology is about connecting patients with the right information in an innovative way that is both convenient and simple.
Patients often do not know what medication they are taking and it became a major problem for healthcare providers who have limited access to a patient’s medical history due to privacy regulations. Marshall Medical Centers solves this problem by allowing patients access to their medical records online on using a phone, tablet or home computer. A Patient Portal is a secure online website that gives patients convenient 24-hour access to their personal health information. This encourages patients to take a more active role in maintenance good health and improve lifestyle habits. Jeff Stewart of Marshall Medical Centers Information Technology Department said “You can see your lab results, pay your bill online…Those are things you can do from the comfort of your home”. Before this technology was available, patients had to call during business hours and speak to a hospital representative who would look this information up for you. I enjoy talking with people but often found it considerably difficult to spell my name and prescription over the phone.
One problem facing many hospitals is that continuous expansion and upgrades have resulted in hospital campus’s that frequently change and are challenging to navigate. I remember being 30 minutes late for an
appointment because I parked in the wrong parking lot and when I entered the hospital, none of the signs pointed me in the right direction, as my destination was on the other side of the campus. Problems like this can be resolved by using navigational kiosks that provide directions to hundreds of locations, some signs simply can’t do. Marshall Medical Center North in Scant City and Marshall Medical Center South in Albertville both have wayfinding kiosks that provide turn by turn directions for visitors. Visitors can print the directions from the kiosks or email the directions to their phones. The wayfinding kiosks are not designed to replace hospital staff, only to make them more efficient and make patients’ experience better. I’ve often asked for directions from hospital staff only to get them jumbled around after the 4th turn, resulting in a search for someone else to help me find my destination again. The ability to have directions in my hand, either printed or digital, allows me to feel confident that I’m going to get where I need to be on time.
One of the challenges facing smaller rural hospitals is that they lack the resources of larger hospitals in urban areas. The North Alabama Neurostroke Network connects 10 hospitals, including both Marshall Medical Center hospitals, to neurologists in Huntsville to treat stroke victims. The experience is similar to a Skype video call with exceptional audio and video quality that allows the doctor to determine if a patient’s pupil is dilated from miles away.This technology places a neurologist at the bedside of a stroke victim during the critical early stage when immediate treatment can minimize the long-term effects of a stroke and prevent death. A stroke occurs when a vessel in the brain is blocked by a blood clot or rupture. The majority of all strokes in the United States are ischemic. The only FDA-approved treatment for ischemic strokes is tPA given through an IV in the arm. The medication works by dissolving the clot and improving blood flow to the part of the brain being deprived of blood flow. If administered within three to four and a half hours, tPA may improve the chances of recovering from a stroke. “The availability of a neurologist to the emergency department 24 hours a day will further enhance the specialty services available to patients in our community,” said ER director Renee Jordan.
Time is a critical factor for patients who may have suffered a stroke. The Neurostroke network is engaged after a patient suspected of having had a stroke arrives at the hospital and a staff member initiates a “stroke alert.” The patient’s vital information along with the CAT scan results are sent to a neurologist offsite. The nurse conducts a stroke scale test, similar to the interactive version created by LogicJunction, on the patient while doctors review the case. The doctor performs a remote assessment of the patient in the exam room with a nurse assisting. The neurologist, who is on a computer screen, can see the patient and ask questions. In this situation, the Telestroke technology allows a faster assessment from a neurologist than if he were down the hall in surgery.
Technology is providing better patient care by improving the efficiency in the flow of information. Allowing patients to access their information is accomplished by automating what a person once did, but it is never designed to replace the person, it allows the person to place more time in providing excellent customer service and less time keying information into a computer from a caller. The same is true of those staff who provide directions and assistance to visitors.A custom printed map with turn by turn directions is always going to be easier to follow than verbal instructions, which is the reason why hospitals from coast to coast use our technology, so this allows your staff to focus on the multitude of tasks that can never be automated, and are far more enjoyable than giving directions to someone you just ‘know’ is still going to get lost. Additionally, the use of technology to connect people to multiple areas as if they were physically there will begin to change the way we interact with hospitals.