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Hospital Gives Kids Bedside Web Access

Touchscreen bedside units replace traditional hospital TVs and give pediatric patients Internet access, and a new way to communicate with hospital staff.

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee

February 17, 2010

4 Min Read

When kids are hospitalized, it's sometimes a scary experience, and a lonely one. The Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del., is trying to make kids and their families more comfortable by keeping them entertained, educated, and wired to their friends.

The 200-bed children's hospital is rolling out GetWell Town, which provides bedside TVs that offer interactive patient communication, entertainment, and educational services -- as well as access to the Internet. GetWell Town is a pediatric version of the interactive entertainment and educational services also offered by GetWellNetwork to hospitals across the U.S. for adult patients.

Alfred I. duPont is replacing its former hospital TVs with the new GetWell Town bedside, flat screen, touchscreen units, which sit on a swing arm and have wired keyboards. The touchscreen and keyboards are sealed with protective coverings so that they can be safely wiped down with disinfectant wipes, said Mark Lorenz, associate administrator of Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children.

Patients may use the units for watching regular TV programming, for gaming, and to access educational videos related to their health issues.

The GetWell unit can also be used to communicate with hospital staff. Service requests, such to adjustments to a patient's room temperature, can be relayed via the units.

The GetWell system also provides patients and their parents with Internet access. The units, which include a CPU, are "pre-loaded" for quick access to sites such as AOL, and allow kids to access their own favorite sites, said Lorenz.

Patients can use GetWell Town to go on sites like Facebook, check e-mail and instant messaging, download music -- all activities that can help the kids feel connected to their friends and the outside world whether the patients are staying at the hospital for several days, or several hours.

The hospital is rolling out the GetWell Town units for a variety of outpatient services such as dialysis and cancer treatment, and also in the emergency department, said Lorenz.

The GetWell system also interfaces to the hospital's Epic hospital information system. So, once a child is admitted or transferred to the hospital, she is set to use the GetWell unit when she arrives in her room. "The system 'knows' where the patient is," said Lorenz.

Parents who sign up for the hospital's MyNemours Web-based personal e-health record services can also access their child's records via the GetWell unit, as well as send e-mail to the patient's physicians. Access to the hospital's Web-based MyNemours e-health record systems is through GetWell, not through the hospital's clinical systems, for security, said Lorenz.

The child-friendly, on-demand medical educational video content is provided by KidsHealth.org, which is a division of Nemours, owner of the Alfred I. duPont pediatric hospital. KidsHealth.org for many years has provided Web-based educational health content to about 50 children's hospitals in the U.S. The video content service is new from KidsHealth.org.

While Alfred I. duPont is the first children's hospital to debut GetWell Town in this region, an exclusive partnership between KidsHealth.org and GetWellNetwork will provide the video services to other children's hospitals throughout the country, said Dr. Neil Izenberg, founder and CEO of KidsHealth.org.

The educational programming includes more than 150 short videos on health issues often faced by children, including asthma and diabetes, said Izenberg. Those videos are child-friendly, often featuring other kids telling about their health stories and experiences.

The educational videos also include instructional material for parents, such as how to change a child's tracheostomy or gastrostomy tubes, said Izenberg. Parents can also arrange to access the instructional material from home via the Web when the patient is released from the hospital, he said.

Parents of patients also have control to block the kids' Internet access, if they choose. Also, for younger patients who haven't yet learned to read, icons -- such as a satellite dish -- appear on the touchscreen for accessing the GetWell functions.

The GetWell services give kids web access without having to bring along their own computing devices, which would put those gadgets in risk of getting lost or broken during a hospital stay.

"This is about empowering the patient and family," Lorenz said. "This keeps communication going," while improving patient and family satisfaction, he said.

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About the Author(s)

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee

Senior Writer, InformationWeek

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee is a former editor for InformationWeek.

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