Futuristic inventions help Intermountain Healthcare transform patient experience

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 21 2013 9:50 a.m. MDT

A wireless life detector to monitor vital signs of patients is displayed on a mannequin as Intermountain Medical Center introduces Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, its new lab with technology created in Utah, at the hospital in Murray.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

MURRAY — There are changes brewing within Intermountain Healthcare, a company that prides itself on being on the cutting edge of technology.

On Tuesday, the company unveiled its Healthcare Transformation Lab, located on the northeast corner of the Intermountain Medical Center campus.

This lab exists in part so physicians and nurses can take their ideas on how to improve health care to engineers who can develop and create prototypes for those ideas.

"Obviously, I think it makes you feel more empowered and that you can help the patients more," said Kristen Gardener, an emergency room nurse.

The idea is to allow for innovation and experimentation with as little cost to the patient as possible.

The lab, which has been at least two years in the making, was created in an effort to keep Intermountain on the front lines of innovation.

"It was natural for us to continue to leverage that desire to be better," said Mark Probst, chief information officer for Intermountain Healthcare.

From a hologram display near the entrance, to the executive briefing center, to the 3-D printer in the demonstration building, everything points to the future in the Healthcare Transformation Lab.

Wesley Valdez, medical director of telehealth services at Intermountain Healthcare, said the company is working to shift from revolving around a physician's needs to making it all about the patient.

"It's transformative," he said.

First, a patient can check in and fill out forms for an appointment with their doctor online from their home. As long as the patient has a webcam, an insurance card and identification, they can also visit with the doctor from their home.

This is not only easier for the patient, but cuts down on the spread of viruses, Valdez said.

The lab has developed a customized patient room. Patients will have access to an iPad to customize their viewing experience. They will also be able to use the iPad to call their doctor, if necessary, from their bed. This creates a "very personal, dynamic experience with the patient," he said.

A new life detector, created by Sotera Wireless, will help lower acute patients, those at lower risk, and be more mobile while monitoring their heartbeat, blood pressure, oxygen levels and other vital signs.

This is an "electronic guardian angel," said Jim Welch, vice president of clinical engineering.

It monitors the patient's vital statistics, alerting a nurse only if there is a problem, according to Gunnar Trommer, vice president of marketing and business development. As things stand now, nurses monitor such patients roughly every four hours, Trommer said.

Intermountain Healthcare also has partnered with Xi3 and Intel and later Dell, CenturyLink, NetApp and Sotera Wireless to create the lab. The partners cover the expenses of the lab, on average $2.5 million per year.

Intermountain has tested partner Xi3's computers and will soon adopt them throughout its system.

Xi3 computers will drive down what the company's chief marketing officer Dave Politis calls the "hidden costs" of energy. They are the size of a softball and use 15 to 20 watts of energy at $500 to $600. A server of a similar size uses 50 watts and costs around $700, compared with the 100 watts to 400 watts consumed by personal computers and 500 watts for an average server.

The computers also contain removable motherboards. This means that one piece can be replaced instead of the whole computer, reducing the money spent.

The 3-D printer in the lab allows for prototypes and models to be created without farming the process out to a third party. Innovations such as the case for a watch that monitors whether doctors and nurses have washed their hands have been created and tested within the lab.

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