Designing a Modernized Hospital Pavillion Leverages Connectedness to Enhance the Patient Experience


By John P Donohue, VP of Information Services, Penn Medicine

Over seven years ago, a group of leaders at Penn Medicine met to discuss building  a new patient pavilion on our healthcare campus in West Philadelphia. The vision was both innovative and comprehensive, with an emphasis on creating  a hospital of the future by modernizing the patient stay and their experience with the healthcare services.. The idea revolved around designing a new digital patient care facility to change the way care i delivered, and  included a robust technology plan to facilitate this effort. The sheer energy around the initiative was palpable. It was exciting to think about especially because our health system began with constructing the nation’s first hospital and first medical school. So this new facility would be an extension of this rich history and serve the community for generations to come.

Fast forward to today – the building is now less than 200 days from being patient ready. The work done over the last several years is nothing less than impressive. The collaboration of the team working together from design and concept to construction and outfitting this 1.5 million square foot building is world-class. This building will serve as the centerpiece of the West Philadelphia campus, integrating both inpatient care and advanced outpatient care.

As one can imagine, the technology footprint in a building of this scale is significant. The building is designed to provide a seamless digital experience for the patient and their families as well as the care providers. This includes comprehensive wifi coverage – both a guest wifi network for patient families and guests as well as secure wifi for patient care activities. Comprehensive wireless capability for cell phone coverage is included from all major carriers throughout the pavilion. An intelligent self-balancing antenna system carries traffic for cellular, private radio, and legacy paging devices across a single 5G capable infrastructure for future-proofing. Overhead paging and traditional auditory alerts are minimized by aggregating notifications from nurse calls, physiologic monitoring, and rapid response requests and touting them to an integrated smartphone application. This has been architected to minimize “alert fatigue” among the clinical staff. 

The building isdesigned with full resilience around all services, including critical IT connectivity requirements. End-user devices as well as individual patient rooms and operating rooms, are connected to one of two parallel network infrastructures by predetermined and well-documented criteria so that the impact of any outage, planned or unplanned, is clearly defined and minimized.  Extra network cabling capacity is built into every patient room and operating room so that new technologies within an anticipated six-year window will not require clinical or business operation impact to accommodate. Furthermore, modular patient room cabling standardizes the placement and jack numbering and documentation of every device, reducing any future troubleshooting.

The patient room is designed around patient engagement and digital capabilities to enhance their stay at Penn Medicine. In addition to the medical technology that outfits the over 500 single-occupancy patient rooms, it all starts with what we call the patient footwall. The footwall is a 75-inch television that is integrated as the centerpiece of  the room to make it easier for the patient, their family and visitors to interact with the hospital and the patient care team.

This large screen television can be used for entertainment, with a full array of channels and on-demand content for the patients and visitors. The large screen television is also fully integrated with Penn Medicine’s electronic medical record system to enable its use for patient care purposes, eliminating dry-erase boards, door flags, and other manually updated means of communication that easily become outdated. The television is also capable of delivering patient education content and helping to identify the patient care team as well as local weather and other essential information.

The patient room technology is further integrated to connect right quthin reach of the patient’s fingertips. . The patient can control the room itself from the bedside, either through a pillow speaker remote control or via a tablet device. These devices can be used to change the temperature, raise and lower the light and/or shades, and order food from the cafeteria menu. These remotes can also be used to communicate with the patient care team as well as fully control the footwall television. Each room is equipped with specialty glass that the patient or family member can engage from within the room to provide privacy. Additionally, outside of the patient room, a display is installed for additional patient care purposes to indicate if the patient is a fall risk or designate if they require isolation.

The technology also allows the patient to identify staff members as they enter the room, which is a big patient satisfier to improve their experience significantly. Some “rollback” technologies are integrated that will come into play when patients leave their room or are discharged. These controls are environmentally friendly and result in energy savings with both lighting and air handling.

One common theme with this new pavilion and the campus itself is connectivity. The need to have a patient care facility like this with advanced connectivity is evident. However, when you think about extending that connectivity beyond just IT and creating a seamless patient experience across the campus with transitions of care, you are now talking about the game-changing improvements in patient engagement and patient care.

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