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Feb. 21, 2013 Volume 34, No. 24

University Hospital addition combines patient comfort with the latest health technology

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RELAXATION The eight-story addition to University Hospital includes 90 private patient “smart” rooms and the Ellis Fischel Gala and Brown Family Healing Garden, a place for rest and reflection. Photo by Rob Hill


Technology frees up doctors and nurses to focus more on the patient

On Monday, the new eight-floor patient care tower, which includes the relocated Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, will open at University Hospital.

The gleaming tower combines state-of-the-art-technology with a comfortable atmosphere. Nearly every patient room is wired with modern electronics and bathed in natural sunlight thanks to 7-foot-tall windows. 

The tower features six operating rooms, 25 pre-procedure rooms, 18 post-op rooms and 90 private patient “smart” rooms, all with technology that integrates with MU Health Care’s electronic medical records (EMR). To staff the tower, 97 positions were added, 44 of them nurses.

With a $190 million price tag, including $50 million for Ellis Fischel, the hospital is ushering in the future of health care.

“While we are celebrating a new building, the celebration isn’t just about bricks and mortar,” said Vice Chancellor Harold A. Williamson Jr. at the March 18 ribbon cutting. “If it weren’t for our smart doctors and our smart nurses, we wouldn’t have much need for the ‘smart’ rooms.” 

The smart rooms are fitted with devices that record patients’ vital signs, including blood pressure and pulse, and beds that automatically weigh patients and wirelessly transmit the data to the EMR. 

Using technology developed by the Tiger Institute, the iAware system displays the patients’ vital signs data tracked throughout the past 30 hours on a monitor above beds, making it easier for doctors and nurses to get a quick look at the patients’ status. 

“The integration lets the clinician do more what they want to do — care for the patient, be at the bedside — instead of having to enter data,” said Bryan Bliven, associate CIO at Tiger Institute. “That’s been the goal of the smart room: to make the environment care aware.”

Each room is equipped with a monitor that patients can use to surf the Web, check their EMR and watch educational videos about their medical condition. This helps patients and family feel like they are part of the care team, Bliven said.

At the heart of the tower is the Ellis Fischel Gala and Brown Family Healing Garden. Featuring a waterfall, outdoor seating and greenery, the garden is a place for rest and reflection.

The patient care tower also houses Ellis Fischel Cancer Center. When Ellis Fischel opened its doors on Business Loop 70 in 1940, it was the first cancer center west of the Mississippi. Now with its outpatient services on the first and second floors and inpatient services on the eighth floor, the cancer center will be consolidated into one building for the first time in 13 years.

 “In 2011, Ellis Fischel physicians treated over 1,300 new cancer patients, representing a 9 percent increase over the year before that,” said Paul Dale, interim medical director of Ellis Fischel. “Because we’ll be able to accommodate more patients, it will increase the potential for improved outcomes through timely screening, early diagnosis and treatment. And it will improve the communication and collaboration between all of the multidisciplinary specialists at University Hospital, the School of Medicine, the MU campus and Ellis Fischel.” 

On the second floor across from the Ellis Fischel Gift Shop, old photos from the original facility are displayed on drawn window shades. “We tried to blend the past with our future,” said Mitch Wasden, CEO/COO of MU Health Care. 

“This facility represents how tradition is meeting innovation.”

— Kelsey Allen