Clinical Goals Drive Paperless Hospital's IT Choices

Danish hospital plans for an all-digital future, seeks technology that addresses healthcare delivery needs of the 2020s.
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Designing an all-digital hospital needs to involve more than just selecting the right technology, said the IT lead for a new, paperless academic medical center being planned in Denmark.

There need to be clear clinical goals instead of "technology for technology's sake," according to Jonas Hedegaard Knudsen, chief IT consultant for the new hospital in the works at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense.

"A doc may say he needs an iPad, but why?" Knudsen asked. Physicians who want hospital management to provide an iPad should see the technology as more than just a shiny new toy. "How can we, with the help of technology, work with clinicians to meet their clinical goals?"

[To find out which medical apps doctors and patients are turning to, see 9 Mobile Health Apps Worth A Closer Look. ]

Though Denmark has a government-funded healthcare system administered at the regional and municipal levels, it shares many of the same problems as the United States and other Western nations. Healthcare administrators there are dealing with tightening budgets and aging populations, just like anywhere else.

"We can't continue to work the same way," Knudsen told InformationWeek Healthcare in Odense at an official side event to the pan-European World of Health IT conference, held earlier this month in Copenhagen, Denmark. In the future, more care will be delivered in outpatient settings and through prevention and home monitoring. "We either have to treat [patients] faster or treat them in their own homes," Knudsen said.

Indeed, the new hospital, to cover about 2.3 million square feet of floor space, will be 20% to 30% smaller than the building it will replace, according to Knudsen, so design and workflows will both have to be more efficient. The current hospital has an electronic health record (EHR), but staff members still scan a lot of paper and print plenty of documents. That will not happen in the new facility.

"When we talk to our architects, we tell them they can't build niches for printers," Knudsen said. These kinds of directives help create a "burning platform" for innovation, he explained.

The hospital must also be responsive to changing times, particularly because the design and construction are rather drawn out. "How do we want to work in 10 years' time?" Knudsen asked?

Regional authorities recently approved a blueprint for the main hospital building covering nearly 2.3 million square feet, as well as a 264,000-square-foot psychiatric hospital and a 430,000-square-foot facility to house the university's faculty of health sciences. But construction is not expected to start until 2015, following a design competition and bidding. The new buildings are slated to open between 2019 and 2021.

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