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Monday, Dec 4, 2023

Firm Looks to Add High-Tech Touch for Patients

New technology to take a patient’s mind off an illness and boredom might soon have those in some San Diego hospitals feeling more like they’re in a hotel than a hospital.

And, if they aren’t completely satisfied, they can say so in real time.

Hospitals around the county, including the two-hospital Palomar Pomerado Health system and at least two hospitals in Sharp HealthCare are considering making their hospital rooms more like hotel suites , complete with digital customer service surveys.

Patients unhappy with their food, the temperature of their room or staff service can submit a survey any time through a television and keyboard. Negative responses prompt an alert to a pager or e-mail of nurses or administrators.

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The TV/keyboard combination is also used to surf the Web, stay connected to family and friends through e-mail, play interactive games, order food or watch on-demand movies.

Such services are grouped in a basic package offered by companies such as San Diego’s Skylight Healthcare Systems, Inc., which provides the Skylight Access Interactive Patient System for Sharp Grossmont Hospital and 24 other hospitals in more than a dozen states.

The 481-bed Grossmont Hospital has had the technology, formerly marketed as “GetWellTV,” on its third floor for two years. Skylight is planning to install it in nearly every room by mid-October, said Grossmont’s director of acute care services, Janet Hanley, who helped select it.

Skylight Chief Executive Officer and President Dave Schofield said on average, a hospital might pay $2-$3 per day, per bed for the gadgets. So a hospital the size of Grossmont might pay around $1,200 a day for the service, though Hanley said she didn’t know the actual amount. Skylight pays for about $250,000 in installation costs with a five- to seven-year contract, Schofield said.

The in-room technology is part of an industrywide trend toward a more customer service-oriented business model, said Steven Escoboza, the president and chief executive officer of the Healthcare Association of San Diego and Imperial Counties. The nonprofit trade organization represents 35 hospitals in the two counties.

He said it’s in the interest of hospitals to make their patients’ stays as comfortable as possible, in part because their reputation depends on it.

Customer service is measured in surveys such as the California Hospital Experience Survey, formerly known as the PEP-C, sponsored by the nonprofits California Institute for Health Systems Performance and the California Healthcare Foundation.

In the 2004 survey, given to about 36,000 patients, California hospitals rated below average for involvement of family and friends.

“Anything you can offer to the patient that’s homelike may help them stay connected to the outside world,” Sharp Grossmont’s Hanley said. “Sometimes they are in the hospital, and they’re bored. We can give them the education and entertainment they need.”

The technology is not all for fun, said Skylight Senior Vice President of Marketing Kevin Whiteley.

Hospitals can educate patients about their disease or condition through digital videos without being constrained by a limited number of videotapes.

Skylight has met with at least one other Sharp hospital, Sharp Coronado, said a Sharp spokeswoman, Jamee Lynn Smith, though she couldn’t confirm that the hospital planned to buy the system.

Skylight’s Schofield said his company is going into “later stage talks” with two hospitals in San Diego County about purchasing his technology, while just starting to converse with others.

He said he expects Skylight, which was founded in 1999 and has 40 employees, to double its clientele of more than 20 hospitals, as well as revenues within the next year, but declined to disclose revenues for 2004. Schofield estimates that more than 200 hospitals in the country use technology similar to Skylight Access, and said San Diego hospitals are just starting to jump on the trend. He said Skylight has about half a dozen competitors nationally.

“Our type of system will become the standard,” Schofield said. “It’s almost like in a hotel, when you walk in: If they don’t have a nice TV and a full cable selection, you may not stay there.”

Andy Hoang, a spokesman for Palomar Pomerado Health, said officials there talked sometime in the past year with Skylight about adding Skylight Access to its hospital rooms.

“We’re trying to deinstitutionalize the institution of health care,” Hoang said. “We want to bring in the comfort and amenities of home to create an inviting environment.”


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