Cutting Edge Medical Care Units
"Form ever follows function", a principle coined by American architect Louis Sullivan, states that an object's form should be contingent upon its usage/function. When looking at the modern day in-patient room, it appears that many hospital architects followed Sullivan's principle. To account for a hospital's high intake volume, in-patient rooms are generally crowded and sport the bare minimum in amenities: an adjustable bed, computer screens monitoring patient statuses, a TV, and chairs for visitors. This minimalistic approach enables clinicians to have quick access to a patient during an emergency without having to dodge furniture. This layout can also make these rooms feel unwelcoming and disconnected, affecting the patient's comfort and anxiety levels. Inventor Stephanie Bechtel, along with Cerner Innovation Inc., believes that patient care units can be both efficient and technologically advanced without sacrificing luxury and comfort.
Clinical Care Smart Room
Smart Rooms are covered by business methods patents include Bechtel's invention, US 8,620,682, titled "Smart clinical care room"; granted December 31, 2013.
To address the needs of both patient and clinician, Bechtel's invention utilizes a central computer system to physically and automatically manipulate objects in the room upon receiving an initial input from the patient or clinician. Bechtel's smart room can initiate protocols in the event of a medical emergency and capture vital information, such as the "presence and position of members of the clinical care team, the time at which clinical events occur, and the procedures performed". With several unique features, this smart room system seeks to enhance the patient's comfort while improving the quality of care provided by the clinicians.
What's Going On
Bechtel's smart room is arranged in three zones, one each for the patient's family, the patient, and the clinician. The smart room can interact with all three zones independently or collectively, depending on input demands. Each zone has it's own unique features and applications.
According to Bechtel, the comfort of the patient's family is often low-priority when compared with the experience of the patient. In the patient-family zone of the smart room, family and friends are treated to comfortable chairs and functional work areas. In theory, all furniture in this zone are designed to fold up in the event of an medical emergency, providing increased work space for the clinicians. Additionally, a sensor interface can track individuals who enter/exit the room. In the event that a family member wants to speak with a clinician but needs to step out for a moment, the interface would inform the family member via text message when a clinician is detected inside the room. This interface provides family and friends with the freedom to leave the patient's side while having the security that they would be informed should any issues arise. (And resolves the age old hospital dilemma where the second you step out to grab a coffee, the medical staff arrives, and its cohort, the medical staff arrives and the family is no where to be found.)
Utilizing the patient interactive station, located close to the patient, the module has the ability to receive vocal or gesture commands to perform a variety of tasks such as changing room sceneries, beginning physical therapy videos, or controlling the settings of multimedia systems. The interactive station can also send information to the central computer system to change other aspects of the room. For example, upon receiving input that the patient would like the "relaxation scene", the smart room would turn on a "relaxing scenery in the digital ceiling/window, initiate aromatherapy, turn on soothing music, dim room lights, and move the patient into a relaxing position". This system will allow the patient to enjoy a luxurious and comfortable experience during their stay at the hospital.
For the Clinician
The smart room contains several modules that enhance the clinician's efficiency while improving the procedures of the hospital. One of the biggest features that Bechtel highlights is how the room "transforms" in the event of a code blue emergency (an event where a patient requires immediate resusitation). During a code blue, quick response times and easy access to the patient are critical to the patient's outcome. The smart room can detect an abnormal change in heart rhythm and automatically initiate its code blue protocol. According to Bechtel, the room will notify the patient's clinician through text messaging, turn on all lights in the room, fold all furniture to increase work space, turn down multimedia volumes, project a live-feed of vital patient information onto the main TV screen, and adjust the patient's bed for proper resusitation. Again, the smart room utilizes the sensor interface to detect the position of each person in the room (the patient and the medical staff) along with the location of medical equipment used in the room. The smart room further documents and time-stamps all procedures executed on the patient. These documentation modules will help hospitals improve their code blue/emergency protocols and assist in future case studies.
The informationization of invention, that convergence of science and information technology, is blurring the boundaries between different types of inventions. We are seeing more "sensing" techology being integrated in the medical industry. Inventors are utilizing RFID, ultrasound, infrared, and/or MRI technology to locate individuals/objects within a given field. As the use of these technologies become more widespread and complex, medical procedures can be performed more autonomously with minor inputs by a surgeon/physician.
Digital Native Doctors
The direction of these inventions also stir up discussions about medical training. One of the questions is whether today's digital native medical students, people who have never been alive when there wasn't the level of connectivity offered by the internet, will more easily adapt to the technology than older colleagues; and whether this level of digital engagement might remove clinical decision making and surrender it to digital devices. There are other questions. Should our surgeons and physicians become less of scientists and more of engineers? Will technology accelerate medical research by allowing clinicians to focus on increasingly personalized and granular medicine made possible by improved technology? Will the roles of a surgeon become less of an actor and more of an overseer? Innovations like these have great macroscopic impacts on the future of medicine and healthcare as a whole.
So how do you cover all of this in one claim? Here we go.
Claim 1 — One or more non-transitory computer-readable storage media having embodied thereon computer-useable instructions which, when executed by a computing device, cause the computing device to perform a method for adaptively utilizing a clinical care room to facilitate caring for a patient, the method comprising: receiving an input indicating the patient is experiencing a code blue event, wherein the code blue event comprises cardiopulmonary arrest; incident to receiving the input: (1) automatically and without human intervention notifying a clinical care team of the code blue event, (2) automatically and without human intervention modifying one or more physical structures in the clinical care room to facilitate patient care including placing a patient bed in a predefined code blue position, powering off any television that is on, and transitioning a clinician-dashboard display device from a clinician view to a team view displaying a code blue care plan comprising one or more suggested next steps of care for the patient's cardiopulmonary arrest based on clinical event information, (3) automatically and without human intervention capturing the clinical event information related to the clinical care room and the patient, (4) automatically and without human intervention displaying the code blue care plan to the clinical care team, and (5) utilizing the clinical event information to adaptively update the code blue care plan.
The dependent claims enhance the details but Claim 1 does a pretty good job of letting you know what's going on here. (Nice for a business methods patent.)