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Patients get connected with
by Holly Auer
Post and Courier Staff
Jennifer Flowers is an 8-year-old with an ambitious plan: to get to the
last level of the video game “Gold Miner” before ending her stay at
MUSC Children’s Hospital.
Whenever she feels like giving the game a go—to pass the time, or
forget about not feeling well—she fires it up on a TV screen in her
hospital room using a wireless keyboard and remote.
Photo by Brad Nettles/ Post and Courier
Eight-year-old Jennifer Flowers uses a wireless keyboard ro play a
video game in her room June 12 at MUSC Children's Hospital as her older
sister, Morgan, watches.
Eleven-year-old Trenton Rupert picks out new-release movies in his
room—“The Legend of Zorro” is his favorite so far—with a quick click of
a button on the remote. That, he says, is a whole lot better than when
he used to have to wait to borrow videos from the hospital’s child life
Both young patients are tapping into the GetWellNetwork, an interactive
software program that runs through the hospital’s cable TV network and
allows them to surf the Web, use e-mail, watch videos for both fun and
education, and give feedback to their caregivers.
Online for just under two months, kids and teenagers at the hospital
have used the technology to communicate with teachers, check out
MySpace pages and catch the latest movies. Within the next few months,
a different version of the program will roll out at MUSC’s main
hospital, offering similar services to grown-up patients and their
David Bennett, MUSC’s Web development services director, estimates
about 20,000 U.S. hospital beds, less than 1 percent, offer patients
this level of connectivity. About 15 hospital systems across the nation
run the GetWellNetwork, and MUSC is South Carolina’s first hospital to
offer a program of its kind.
The hospital’s technology staff said the multimillion-dollar investment
is all about enhancing the patient’s experience —a goal that often gets
lost in the tangle of test results, IV lines and drug orders that fill
each patient’s day.
“Traditionally, that’s second place,” Bennett said. “Usually, it’s all
about the care team around you, not about what your experience is.”
Although the technology might be fun to use, it’s expected that the
educational aspects of the system, from drug information to tutorials
on smoking cessation and diabetes care, will ultimately enhance patient
outcomes. Plus, Bennett said, studies show that by offering fun
diversions, such as games and movies, patients tend to feel better and
need less pain medication.
By “prescribing” patients educational videos just as they would a drug,
doctors aim to empower patients. The network offers more than 150
films, on topics from diabetes to asthma to bone-marrow transplants.
Though it’s no substitute for face-to-face education, “if we can
educate you ahead of time, and teach you a little bit about your state,
the nurse can come in and talk to a much more informed patient,”
The system also gives patients and their families a chance to do a bit
of advance planning. They can, for instance, order prescriptions online
and pick them up at the hospital pharmacy on the way home, or go online
to choose medical equipment such as walkers or shower chairs and have
them delivered before getting home.
Hospital administrators are particularly excited about the patient
feedback part of the program, which they hope will boost standards of
care and streamline the way the hospital functions. If lunch arrives
too late, for instance, patients can beam an instant message to the
hospital’s dietary department to get things straightened out.
With a nursing shortage gripping hospital wards everywhere, time spent
on those issues means less time spent taking care of patients.
“That’s not what we want nurses doing,” Bennett said. “We want them
doing what they’re good at.”
The GetWellNetwork accounts for that, too. Find a nurse that does an
extra-special job? Share your feelings on the screen and she’ll know
about it in no time.
Editor’s note: The above is an article that ran June 13 in The Post and
Courier and is printed with permission.
Friday, June 16, 2006
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