Building a Smart Room: What Hospitals Should Consider

As the digital transformation of the healthcare industry shifts expectations for care delivery, collective interest in smart hospitals has also increased. The road from smart room ideation to that first successful patient discharge can be a long one, with many bumps along the way — but with the right preparation, you can smooth those bumps and pave the way for a successful smart room launch.

If you’re looking to build your first smart room, you’ll want to assess:

  • Construction phase: Where are you in the process (planning phase, approved architectural plans, walls going up, or even looking to transform an existing inpatient room)? Understanding this will help determine what type of technology you are able to incorporate and when it must be included.
  • Patient experience: Do you have a specific vision or important use cases in mind for the patient experience here? What about the family/guest experience?
  • Project plan/deadlines: Have you already laid out a project plan for in-room technology? If not, what are the major deadlines/milestones you’re working up against?

These are some of the main considerations, but there are a number of others you’ll want to review before deciding on the direction and vendors for your smart rooms. Here are some important areas to consider.

Self-service convenience

One of the main benefits of an inpatient smart room is the agency it conveys to the patient who has been hospitalized. From allowing meal ordering to enabling self-service education and environmental controls, the most optimized smart rooms place control back into the hands of the patient during a time when they don’t feel like they have much control over anything.

You’ll also want to consider whether you currently offer a meds-to-beds program, or whether you’d like to do so. Integrated smart technology can help facilitate this process in an efficient manner.

Multi-channel engagement

One of the benefits of offering patient engagement tools in a smart room is that patients can seamlessly transition from education to entertainment and back again, all from the comfort of their hospital bed. But how will patients and families access this content? One option is to provide hospital-owned tablets, or to allow patients to use their own devices as part of a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategy. Consider whether you’ll allow family members to have access to hospital-owned tablets, or if they, too, will be able to use their own mobile devices to access content within the patient’s room.

There are also logistical and protective measures to consider, such as the processes you will need to put in place to manage and sanitize the tablets and ensure HIPAA compliance. And what about clinicians and other providers? Will they be carrying their own devices? If so, think through the use cases — those devices could be used for screencasting, texting with patients, or another purpose entirely.

There are opportunities and challenges for every decision made around tablets and other mobile devices. Make sure to select a vendor who can address both.

Smart clinician communication tools

Staff and clinicians must be able to communicate and retrieve information even when not in the same room. Luckily, smart rooms can help address this need via devices like alerting panels and digital whiteboards, technology like RTLS, and even digital rounding tools.

  • Alerting panels: Consider how details like patient status, precautions, or clinical alerts are currently conveyed to staff and visitors before they enter the room — and how you would like to convey that information, if different from the status quo. If you’ve considered installing a panel on the door to display critical information, you also need to consider how you plan to power that device.
  • Digital whiteboard: Within the room, a digital whiteboard can also support clinician communication, helping to orient the patient to information and available for use during bedside shift reports to help streamline dialogue. Digital whiteboards can come in a range of integrations, from full-screen to pop-ups to a permanent anchor on the bottom or side of the screen. Regardless, it will help convey information to the patient and provide common ground during clinical communication.
  • RTLS: If you don’t currently have RTLS, consider whether you plan to deploy it and how that might (or might not) benefit your facility. RTLS badges can help with things like authenticating staff or patients, or tracking staff compliance for hand hygiene, hourly rounding, and more. The technology can go a long way towards providing comfort to patients and facilitating staff workloads.
  • Digital rounding: Think about the types of rounding you conduct today (examples might include nurse leader, quality and safety audits, or employee rounding). Consider whether you do — or plan to do — any virtual or digital rounding or automated rounding (such as discharge phone calls)? All of these considerations will help inform the technology in your smart room.

Virtual care

From voice-activated assistants to videoconferencing, there’s much to be said about the ability of technology to aid in virtual care. There are important considerations for each of these tools; chief among them is the need to have robust privacy policies and teams that are willing to use the tools.

For videoconferencing, for example, consider the use cases. Videoconferencing can be used to address a specialist shortage or to connect distant campuses. Teleconferencing can also be used to connect patients to family and friends teleconferencing or even for physician visits or rounding. Ensuring that everyone is on board with the goals and strategies will make this transition much smoother.

Downstream affinity

One final thing to think about is that the benefits of a smart room — or smart technology — don’t have to end upon discharge. Consider:

  • Do you currently outreach to or check in with patients after they are discharged?
  • Does this process reach all patients or only certain populations?
  • How do you know if a patient was able to fill their prescription or schedule a follow-up appointment?
  • Do you have ways to stay connected with patients after they leave to guide them to future services?
  • Are you able to surface and encourage patients and families to share positive reviews about their experience?
  • How are you encouraging patients to complete post-discharge surveys?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” consider how technology might help you take your post-discharge outreach a step further, keeping you connected to patients and top-of-mind for future services.

The bottom line

Many aspects of an inpatient smart room sound futuristic, but in fact, it’s already here. Technology can assist in everything from ensuring staff compliance to enabling videoconferencing, environmental controls, and digital rounding. With the right vendors in place, you can ensure that your patient experience is second to none, while lightening the load on clinicians and staff.

Learn more about a real-life implementation of smart rooms in our on-demand webinar, Intentional Innovation: The Smarter Patient Experience.