Digitally Networked Clinic Information Systems: Rethinking Patient Entertainment

Modern medicine would be inconceivable without computer technology. Indeed, medical technology and information technology are becoming more inextricably linked by the day. This trend however poses considerable challenges for both technical and medical personnel. Patient entertainment systems can play an important role in meeting these challenges, provided they are designed not only to provide classic entertainment, but also to facilitate bedside access by clinic staff to existing and future clinical information systems.

Enabling medical staff to directly access patients’ health records during ward rounds or medical treatment at the bedside ensures that no information is missed. This in turn greatly reduces the potential for misunderstanding and miscommunication. But, while building such as system may sound simple in theory, it is in practice a complex undertaking. Existing IT landscapes in clinics are after all highly heterogeneous, based on a variety of different databases and programming languages. Integrating a system like that described above is therefore no simple feat, requiring close collaboration between the relevant manufacturers and health care providers.

Facilitating better information exchange

“By synchronizing structures, optimizing processes and creating interfaces with clinical information systems, the value and the potential benefits of a patient entertainment system increase considerably,” explains the management of ClinicAll International, a manufacturer of infotainment systems for hospitals based in the German town of Neuss. “We recognized early on that the true value of a patient entertainment system lies in its ability to integrate with other clinic information systems, and in the consequent enabling of clinic staff to access the HIS, EMR and other patient information systems already in place. This led to our decision in early 2015 to found and promote a “Technology Alliance for People and Medicine” together with other market leaders from the manufacturing and clinic management fields. The Alliance’s general objective is to foster clinic-wide accessibility to digital information with the primary aim of improving internal processes and eradicating digital fault-lines within clinics’ process structures.”

The Technology Alliance currently comprises B.Braun Melsungen AG, Intel Deutschland GmbH, Lohmann & Birkner Health Care Consulting GmbH, Microsoft Deutschland GmbH, ClinicAll Deutschland GmbH and Rhön Klinikum AG with its University Hospital Giessen and Marburg. It presented the first fruits of its work to a wide audience of trade and industry representatives at the 2015 MEDICA trade fair.

The challenges faced by health care providers

With more and more patients expecting bedside entertainment during their hospital or clinic stays, the demand among health care providers for affordable classic patient entertainment systems that medical staff can operate easily is set to increase. Indeed, hospitals and clinics will increasingly compete for patients on the basis of whether they can offer easy, user-friendly access to television, radio, Internet, video and patient information services. However, patient entertainment systems on their own, while certainly a means of generating additional turnover, will not fulfil clinic and hospital needs in the long-term. In the future, the role of interactive data exchange at the Point of Care is set to take on particular importance. This state of affairs calls on providers of patient entertainment systems to facilitate data exchange via EDI standards, to focus on user-friendliness, and to also offer mobile/ portable IT solutions that interface with classic hospital IT, medical technology, and wearables. Many clinics and hospitals, however, due to their old buildings and outdated infrastructures, will find that creating the technical conditions necessary for such patient entertainment systems is financially unfeasible.

Connecting with HIS and other EPA  systems

The advantages of connecting patient entertainment systems with HIS and EPA systems are clearly evident. Implementing this interconnection is often highly complicated, however. The difficulties here are in part down to the lack of foresight shown by the companies who first manufactured patient entertainment systems, as the corresponding software architecture is unable to accommodate integration with a clinical information system. TÜV Media Online’s editorial team asked Neuss-based patient entertainment manufacturer ClinicAll International for its view on the integration of HIS systems into bedside patient entertainment systems. The management board’s initial statement was a sober one:

“We don’t currently know of any cases in Germany where a patient entertainment provider has successfully integrated its system with a clinic’s HIS/EMR systems.” But the ClinicAll board went on to explain, “This topic is one of the most important points on our strategic agenda, however, and is therefore at the forefront of our system development work. We know that integrating a HIS system with a patient entertainment system on the basis of HL7 is possible, having accomplished this at a clinic in Golnik, Slovenia. Together with the company SRC Infonet, which provides this clinic with its HIS system, we were able to fulfil the clinic management’s specifications and successfully integrate the HIS into our ClinicAll system.

Now, the clinic’s medical staff has bedside access to the HIS system and can thus view patient files and enter new data into the system from here.”

Experts in Germany agree that the coming years will see a pronounced development drive in the field of interactive information processing for clinic staff and patients. Clinics and hospitals will after all have no choice but to act on the social and technological changes taking place.

This situation necessitates closer collaboration between HIS providers and patient entertainment providers on the German market with a view to devising effective integration solutions. Because, while such integration is technically feasible, little has so far been done about actually exploiting this feasibility.