By Brooke Faulkner, freelance writer; @faulknercreek.
Being rushed to the hospital is a traumatic event in a child’s life, yet a staggering 25.5 million children are taken to the emergency room each year. The reasons for these ER trips range from poisonings and infections to mental health conditions and diabetes, plus a host of terrifying injuries and baffling disorders. In addition to emergencies, there are children who make frequent visits to hospitals or stay there for weeks on end to receive ongoing treatment for chronic conditions.
Children today are much more tech-savvy than in the past — they’re getting smartphones before their age hits double digits. Many hospital administrators take tech trends into consideration in order to make the overall experience better for patients and their families. Even the processes and workflows that hospital staff follow now stress the patients’ experience. Technology is also helping doctors and surgeons perform their jobs more efficiently and safely while offering quality healthcare to more families than before.
Faster care for injuries
The last thing you expect when heading to a birthday party is leaving with your child in an ambulance. Bounce houses and similar structures are responsible for a number of injuries, and they have been for a long time. Injuries can happen at any time, and hospital staff needs to be prepared to handle them to ensure optimal health outcomes.
In more dire circumstances, faster care is necessary to save the lives of those injured. In the wake of natural disasters, as local leaders scramble to help their respective communities find stability, faster healthcare processes are required to protect the lives of those affected.
Some hospitals are using technology that tells patients the wait times at nearby emergency rooms. This can help parents decide where to take their child for the fastest attention possible. If there’s no hospital that can treat an injury at the moment, the parent can opt to visit their primary doctor or another emergency clinic.
Advancements in communication
Children and their families need to know that they can contact a nurse or doctor when they need to and that their concerns will be addressed quickly. New hospital technology aims to streamline and speed up communication between everyone involved.
- Bedside buttons that don’t just alert a nurse that help is needed, but that allow the patient to directly communicate with the nurse regardless of how far away they are.
- Virtual whiteboards where patients and their family members can either pay a medical professional a compliment or make a complaint. This eliminates the need for the family member to track down a supervisor who has time to listen to their issue.
- Wi-Fi networks in hospitals haven’t always been reliable. Hospitals dedicated to improved communication ensure their Wi-Fi networks are fast and reliable, which allows children and teens to stay connected to their families.
Thanks to modern communication technology, doctors, nurses and other allied health professionals can immediately be informed about a patient’s condition as it changes in real time. In addition to providing more efficient channels of communication, technological advancements include wearable sensors that can monitor various aspects of an individual’s health, immediately alerting health professionals should any concerning biometric readings necessitate further investigation.
Tech-focused safety improvements give the patient and their family better peace of mind and help doctors and surgeons provide better, more informed care.
- An alert system that’s color-coded and set up outside the patient’s room can immediately indicate details to the medical professional, like if a procedure is currently taking place or if the patient is at risk for something in particular.
- Electronic name badges can project an image of the medical professional on the TV screen in the patient’s room. This confirms the identity for the patient when the professional walks into the room.
- Voice-based systems are used in intensive care units as a method for receiving necessary information hands-free, which helps control infection.
Fun and games
Children who have to stay in the hospital for several days or weeks on end need more than just great healthcare — they need distractions, entertainment, and the ability to just be a kid again:
- Augmented reality apps transform the hospital into a world of wonder for the child. By viewing the location through the app, they can see whales surfacing or bunnies hopping around the halls.
- Virtual reality is being developed to distract children while they’re being treated, giving them a world to escape into instead of having to pay attention to what’s happening at the moment.
- Interactive game rooms or corners strive to normalize the environment for the child, giving them something to play with that seems more like an arcade than a hospital.
Better healthcare through technology
While it’s out of their control, children offer face barriers that prevent them from receiving medical care. Virtual care is working toward combating this by offering healthcare to more children and families who either can’t afford traditional healthcare or who aren’t conveniently located close to healthcare. Being able to virtually access healthcare means that parents can get faster feedback when their children are sick or hurt and it can also cut down on travel costs.
There are also a number of in-hospital advancements that improve the level of care children receive. For example, survey questions can be pushed to the TV sets in the patient rooms. Children can easily answer a simple question by giving it a score on a scale of 1 to 10. Negative responses can trigger immediate attention from a nurse.
Hospital technology doesn’t have the one-and-only goal of speeding up the care process. Instead, it improves everything from the child’s stay and experience to their safety and comfort level.