In Miami, Fla., one medical center has taken patient care to a new level -- one with the ultimate goal creating  improved interactive patient care.

On June 25, The Bruce W. Carter Veterans Affairs (VA)  Medical Center  launched a new interactive system to provide patients with touchscreen monitors at their bedside that assist with patient care, and provide education tools and entertainment.

With the touch of a screen, patients can watch cable TV, browse the Internet and pick from a library of 30 movies, such as The Avengers and The Bourne Legacy.

So far, more than 230 monitors have been installed in inpatient rooms, some of which provide special adaptive equipment to allow paralyzed patients full access to the new system. Paralyzed patients who don’t have use of their arms and hands may breathe through a special apparatus that can control navigation on the monitor.

To roll out the $2.4 million system, the Miami VA Healthcare System partnered with GetWellNetwork, a company that produces technology that focuses on patient care.

Paul Russo, director of the Miami VA Healthcare System, said patients can watch educational health-care videos on topics such as diabetes, heart disease and other chronic illnesses, but as the medical center continues to add content to the interactive system, more features that will help with patient care will soon be available.

“We’ve chosen four areas at the moment to build our content and questions,” Russo said. “It essentially allows an interaction between the veteran and his care needs through the system.”

The medical center plans to develop interactive patient-to-staff communication through the touchscreens that focuses on pain management, falls management (for patients who are more at risk to falling down), room cleanliness turnover and discharge planning. Russo said the plan is to continue building out the content in the GetWellNetwork system so that when a patient is watching television or a movie, a message will pop up on the screen in defined intervals that may ask a question like, “Are you in pain?”

The idea is that patients will be responsible for responding to the questions when they pop up, so medical center staff can respond and ensure patients receive the care they need.

Although the critical care functionality hasn't yet been deployed in Miami’s VA medical center, Russo hopes the capability will be available to patients in the near future. TheGetWellNetwork provides the core functionality including the entertainment tools and educational videos, but critical care components, like the pain management function, can be customized and built out for each medical center so they get features more suitable for their respective facilities.

According to Bill Gilroy, director of Mid-Atlantic and Government Solutions for the GetWellNetwork, other VA medical centers including one in Burmingham, Ala., have implemented systems similar to the one deployed in Miami. The company has only worked with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for the last four years, but now also works with 22 VA medical centers.

The GetWellNetwork was purchased for the Bruce W. Carter VA’s regional-based group called the Veteran Integrated Service Network (VISN), which spans eight medical centers including the Miami-based center.

Gilroy said while the touchscreen technology does integrate entertainment with care, the bigger goal is to create improved interactive patient care. "While the entertainment aspect of our system is a nice distraction and an amenity,” he said, “the real value of our system is how we can actually improve care by engaging patients.”

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.