Hospital Rooms of the Future

7/21/2008 PITTSBURGH, Pa. Rita Mulkerin has heart problems and has suffered a stroke. Some days, it's tough to speak; but today, her questions are being answered before she has to ask. Mulkerin is staying in a smart hospital room.

For starters, computers using voice recognition give doctors immediate access to vital patient information right at the bedside. "I can't tell you how many times as a physician when I got to a nursing station looking for my patient's chart, it's not there; somebody else has it," Shuja Hassan, M.D., a geriatrician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told Ivanhoe.

Ultrasound tracking devices detect the real-time location of caregivers who wear small transmitters, or tags, like pagers. When someone wearing a tag enters a patient room, their name and job title flash up on a second computer screen.

"We like to know who it is, what department they're from, why they're in the room," says Judy Jacobs, Mulkerin's daughter.

Doctors say it's one important way to help avoid medical mistakes. "If you see a medication up there that you're not taking, or that the dose is wrong, you can immediately tell me and we can fix it," Dr. Hassan explains.

Each room also has an infrared sensor above the door. A spotlight shines on the hand sanitizer -- a reminder to take the extra step to reduce the spread of patient infections. Technology that helps patients take charge of their health by keeping them in the know.

Each smart room costs between $2,000 and $3,000; but advocates say it's a crucial way to improve patient care and decrease hospital mistakes. Right now, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is the only hospital in the country with rooms like this.

Wendy Zellner
Media Relations
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
Pittsburgh, PA
(412) 647-3555

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