Innovation can sometimes be found in the most unexpected places. At the Falaise hospital in Calvados, Normandy, it was the result of a team effort between a home automation student and the hospital’s technical team, medical staff and paramedics. Together, they have set up a totally connected patient room, in which a touch tablet and a set of infrared sensors are used to call for medical staff and control the lights, blinds and television. The project, the first of its kind in France, is now being rolled out at Caen hospital. We found out more from Denis Doutressoulles, Head of Falaise Hospital’s technical department.
Denis Doutressoulles has worked at Falaise for several years now. In this hospital, which includes a surgical and obstetrics ward, a geriatric ward, long-term care (LTC) unit and rehabilitation unit, he’s in charge of improving the security, ergonomics and overall comfort of patients. He told us how this innovative project run by intern Renaud Even enabled the hospital to experiment with a fully-automated patient room.
HOW TABLETS CAN HELP EMPOWER patients WITH DISABILITIES
How did the automated hospital project come about?
At Falaise Hospital, we try to be innovative and focus on anything that can make everyday life easier for patients. We have also always made a point of taking on students for work placements, in a variety of fields: electronics, electrical engineering, biomedical engineering, etc. A few years ago, we were contacted by a technician from the Alençon Institute of who wanted to send us a home automation student for an internship.
As the experiment went well, we took on another intern, Renaud Even, two years later, who was doing an innovative internship on “home automation for patients: from hospital to home,” and wanted to set up a home automation system at the hospital .
CALLING FOR A NURSE WITH JUST A click – or a BLINK OF AN EYE
What sort of functionalities does the automated system have?
“Patients suffering from mental or physical disabilities need certain functionalities in order to remain independent.”
An essential element when you’re in hospital is safety and being able to call for a nurse or doctor. However, some people aren’t able to press the medical alarm. Thanks to a home automation system, we were able to connect the alarm system to a touch tablet, so patients can call for help by touching the tablet, via voice recognition or just by blinking.
“We got as many of the people working with patients as possible involved in the project so we could benefit from the wealth of their expertise and experience.”
After consulting with medical staff, occupational therapists and home carers, we identified a number of essential features: controlling the lights, blinds, and changing the position of the bed. So we made the necessary changes to the hospital bed, blinds, lighting, television and telephone, so that the patient can control them all via the tablet.
A MASS DEPLOYMENT
Are you still at the test phase?
From March to June 2015 we were in the active phase of the project, i.e. looking for equipment to comply with the specifications. Dr Besnard, a physician and lecturer at Caen Teaching Hospital, offered to supply the equipment he uses for his research into home automation for physiotherapy patients.
A local company called StarNav lent us the digital tablet used for controlling the various equipment, along with DomoSantéPlus, a set of easy-to-use little ergonomic devices. These are potential future markets for them.
At Falaise hospital, we currently only have one tablet supplied by Dr Besnard at the Caen Teaching Hospital. We’ve made some improvements on the initial version but we’re still at the experimental phase. The project will also be deployed at Caen Hospital, overseen by Dr Besnard, and has received European funding to buy around thirty tablets, although this doesn’t include development and training.
“Any hospital planning to roll out this sort of project should train staff in how to use the equipment: nurses and paramedics should know how to set up the tablets, adapt them to each patient, and reconfigure or adapt them in the event of a breakdown. The patient can’t just be left alone with the device.”
A HOME AUTOMATION KIT FOR €2,500
How much does it cost to automate a room?
We don’t need an ultra-sophisticated tablet, just a basic model with a home automation program on it. This is just an estimation but roughly, the total cost is around €2,500 for all the features. This will obviously be cheaper the bigger the deployment.
At Falaise, we planned to renovate the rooms, so we created rooms that could be automated: the idea was that any hospital room could be automated. So even if we don’t install the equipment now, we’ll be able to later. It doesn’t cost any more; you just need to think about certain details, like putting certain elements in one place rather than another. The only thing that actually costs money is the home automation kit.
What advice would you give other hospitals planning on launching similar projects?
During the first part of the project, you have to communicate and show the advantages of the system; i.e. increased patient ergonomics and comfort.
“You have to convince the hospital staff: their priority is the patients, not the equipment.”
There’s usually a little reluctance initially, but once the hospital staff see the results, they’re satisfied: they can immediately see how they can use it in the future.
“If there’s an interest from patients or hospital departments, you should definitely go for it. Home automation is effective, exciting and provides a valuable service for patients and the hospital. The equipment already exists, and it’s not very difficult to get hold of it.”
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