Imagine in the not too distant future, you are rounding on a child who was admitted with gastroenteritis. You want to know whether he is ready for discharge, so you ask your hospital for an update:
Hospitalist, talking aloud: “Hospital computer, when was Johnny’s last bowel movement?”
Overhead voice: “Patient Jonathan Smith had a bowel movement at 0538. It was yellow and seedy in appearance. He had 5 bowel movements in the last 24 hours, decreased from 10 the day prior. Would you like other vital information?”
Hospitalist: “No, thank you, hospital computer.”
Although this scenario may seem straight out of an episode of Star Trek, is it really that far off? Everywhere we look these days, smart technology has infiltrated our lives. From Siri reminding me I am on call, or wearables that track our every biologic function, it seems you cannot make a move without generating measurable data.
But what about hospitals? Why am I still faxing discharge summaries while my friends in the tech sector make fun of me for using the word fax? Why have our work environments not kept pace with the rest of the world?
When I started working after my pediatric hospital medicine fellowship, the first quality improvement project assigned to me was to lead a group to improve hand hygiene on the wards. Over time, as our efforts evolved, a unique opportunity came my way. I learned that scientists at our university working in the field of artificial intelligence were interested in partnering with us.
Initially, the only way we monitored compliance was with physical audit cards done by hand, mainly by nursing staff. Consequently, we had little data on every other role. How could we recreate a fly on the wall to monitor compliance in real time, all the …