Making Smart Hospitals Useful

Smart hospitals are arriving, driven by the vision to enhance the patient experience, reduce operational burden, and improve hospital workflow. The University of Utah’s newly built Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital contains patient rooms with lights, blinds, thermostat, door, and TV controlled through an app on a hospital-furnished iPad or personal device. This novel implementation supports varying control abilities through touch, voice command, sip and puff controller, or physical switches and remotes. This technology is potentially transformative for patients experiencing motor or mobility impairments, helping them regain lost freedom and control of their surroundings. We explore how the technology employed in patient rooms affects - and can better support - patients' and other stakeholders' needs through semi-structured user study interviews. We propose design considerations to efficiently and seamlessly integrate smart technology into the hospital environment and describe how hospitals can adapt this technology to meet patients' unique physical abilities, encourage rehabilitation, and support independence. The potential outcomes of this new research area within human-centered computing foreshadow life-changing results for patients and other hospital stakeholders. Through this continuing work, we can discover how to build smart hospital rooms rather than simply hospital rooms containing smart home technology and guide future designers in integrating technology into the hospital environment - enhancing the patient experience and promoting independence.