It's called "rounding." When you're a patient at Via Christi Hospital on St. Teresa, once a day your entire care team — nurses, pharmacists, case managers, respiratory therapists, anyone who cares for you — gathers around your bed to discuss your care. It's the best way for the team to share information on your progress. And you can get your questions answered, too.
Good communication is at the heart of the innovation in this hospital.
"We call it 'high tech, high touch,'" said Melissa Evraets, clinical nurse manager of the new unit. "These systems and processes are designed to allow more time for the nurse at the bedside."
While rounding is an example of good old face-to-face communication, much of the innovation at the new hospital comes from advanced technology. For example, each room contains a networked computer for the staff.
"We have installed the computers so we can do charting at the bedside with the patient," said Evraets. "You can actually face the patient the entire time. You input the information in real time."
This system replaces mobile carts that were rolled from room to room. The idea is simple: by doing the charting in real time, accuracy is improved.
The hospital also is installing state-of-the-art smart phones to replace the traditional call system. The phones can handle voice, text or e-mails, and have walkie-talkie features for direct communication. They support three-way conversations, so a family member can consult with a doctor in real time. With this system, nurses get calls that relate only to patients under their care.
A patient can make specific requests using the phone system; a request for food goes to the kitchen, while a request for pain medication goes directly to a nurse. The system also is wired to "roll up" any call that is not answered to the care provider at the next level, so every call is answered. For the staff, it means fewer wasted steps. With this improved efficiency, nurses can spend more time with patients.
"Technology can be great," said Evraets. "But if it doesn't put you at the bedside, or save you steps so you can be bedside, what good is it to the patient?"