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How to Make a Hospital Future-Ready - Tech Innovations within the Pavilion

Photo by Dan Schwalm © 2021 HDR

On October 30, Penn Medicine’s new Pavilion — recently referred to as "this year’s most notable hospital building" by the Wall Street Journalopened its doors, marking a historical moment in patient care for the health system and academic medical center. That day, as 310 patients were wheeled into the new facility from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, technology innovations whirred to life within the Pavilion’s walls.

From robots which increase pharmacy efficiency to IRIS — a 75-inch screen and smart board in each patient room — the Pavilion is built with innovation in mind. This includes future technology that has not even been imagined yet.

Adaptable Rooms, Modular Walls

The forward-thinking approach to technology at the Pavilion extends from new machines to the walls within the facility itself. For example, each of the 504 inpatient rooms are designed with the wiring, lighting, and space to be able to convert to an ICU room if needed. While the COVID-19 pandemic cast a light on the necessity for hospitals to be at the ready for surges in patient volumes, the capability for rooms to make the switch will also allow Penn to make changes to the types of care given in different parts of the hospital as technologies and the services provided evolve in future years.

Kate Newcomb-DeSanto
Kate Newcomb-DeSanto, MSN, RN

Additionally, stainless steel modular walls in the operating rooms (ORs) were designed to be able to adapt to future technologies — allowing for plug and play of the newest tools and machines for new treatment innovations, with limited down-time for installation. Further, the walls were proven through third-party testing to harbor less bacteria than standard wall construction, increasing benefits for patients who receive care in the space.

“We’re all relatively in the dark about what new technology will be available say, 10 or 20 years from now. In addition, we’re not certain what research scientists want to drive. But, we have a flexible infrastructure platform in place which will help spur any needs in the future. It’s very different as compared to standard OR construction, and a huge benefit all around,” explained Kate Newcomb-DeSanto, MSN, RN, MSW, a clinical advisor for the Pavilion.

Intraoperative MRIs

The Pavilion features hybrid ORs, equipped with MRIs and other real-time imaging devices, putting Penn Medicine at the forefront of patient imaging. These machines enable specialists to come together and optimize patient care, all in the same suite. Technology like this also allows for even more efficient operations, minimizing the time a patient may have to be under anesthesia. For example, with an intraoperative MRI, imaging can be done in the same suite of rooms as an operation — saving the time that would have been spent transporting a patient to a more distant MRI.

The Pavilion also houses a new photon-counting-detector CT scanner, which provides ultra-high resolution scans that will result insignificant advancements in patient imaging, as well as in clinical research. Penn is one of the first sites in the world to have this new technology, and its use in the Pavilion marks a major milestone for the health system and the region.

31,000 Pounds of Robots

Featuring two separate robotic arms mounted on conveyer belt-like tracks, robots in the Pavilion’s third floor pharmacy satellite area help human pharmacists in the building easily get the right medications to the right people on time.

At 15,658 pounds each and eight feet tall, the robots can quickly track and distribute medications using barcode technology, and can store up to 100,000 doses of various medications, which they know to distribute with an eye toward expiration dates. These robots are not designed to replace human pharmacists, but to work in tandem with them to make things easier and more efficient.

Putting Patients in Control

On the wall opposite the bed in each patient room, IRIS technology was designed to engage patients in their own care and give them control of their room settings at their fingertips. The large smart TV and interactive care system not only provides access to television and entertainment, but acts as a digital whiteboard displaying important patient information — including the name and photo of each member of a patient’s care team, clinical information that automatically populates from PennChart documentation, a patient’s goals or plan of care for each day, and any upcoming consults.

IRIS also allows the care team to share images, such as x-rays, from the patient’s chart to aid plan of care discussions with patients and their family members. What’s more, the technology acts as an environmental control tool, providing patients the ability to adjust lights, window shades, privacy glass, and room temperature (which can help improve patient sleep).

Telemedicine functionality also allows for remote monitoring and consultations. Importantly, for some rooms (ICUs specifically), the screen and additional ICU cameras are linked to the Penn e-LERT remote ICU monitoring system, which monitors patients who need round-the-clock attention. This provides an additional layer of expert medical and nursing support for critically ill patients.

“The hospital is designed to keep up with the rapid pace of innovation in health care and technology — to not only make care more efficient for staff, but better for patients’ wellbeing,” said Newcomb-DeSanto. “The Pavilion really is designed to take on the next century of care.”



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Views expressed are those of the author or other attributed individual and do not necessarily represent the official opinion of the related Department(s), University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine), or the University of Pennsylvania, unless explicitly stated with the authority to do so.

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