How tech can help hotels transition to hospitals amid COVID-19

One technology addition that should be considered when a hotel converts to a hospital is a communication kiosk/portal. Photo credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus / BrianAJackson (hotel)

Across the United States, hotels are being considered as a potential solution to overflowing hospitals due to COVD-19. Many hotels, aware of this situation, are looking at what is needed to prepare for the potential to house pop-up hospitals to protect and meet the influx of patients due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These pop-up hospitals are aiming to not only ensure there are enough beds for everyone, but to help separate COVID-19 cases from the rest of the population.

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To streamline the transition from a hotel to a pop-up hospital, a holistic security, safety and communication technology solution should be implemented. Not only is it important to invest in a holistic technology platform, but it’s also important to take advantage of the hotel’s current assets, which means the solution the pop-up chooses to deploy should be able to integrate those existing tools as well as integrate any additional needed technology such as access control, various sensors, fire panels and more.

One technology addition that should be considered is a communication kiosk/portal. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, being able to screen people before they enter a building has become increasingly important, which is especially true for pop-up hospitals, considering many of them are being created to care for only non-COVID-19 related patients and cases. To decrease the risk of staff and patients contracting COVID-19, people should be screened to see if they have been experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms or if they have been in contact with anyone who has COVID-19 before being permitted to enter the premises. To achieve this, communication kiosks can be placed at the entrance of the building so when a patient or someone else arrives, they can be automatically connected via telecom and/or video calling with a staff member inside the building. This staff member can then determine whether to allow access or not and is able to open the door with the simple press of a button, all from a safe distance.

Another useful technology addition to improve access control is thermal imaging. Thermal imaging can be used to quickly screen whether or not people should be able to enter the premises. Most hotels will already have camera systems in place and they don’t need to be replaced, instead they can be enhanced with thermal imaging software that can detect when someone has a fever. This can be used to monitor anyone trying to enter the building, but it can also be used to monitor staff members inside of the building as well. If a staff member shows up to work with a fever or develops one throughout the day, the cameras can detect this and the employee can be sent home before potentially contaminating the space or getting any patients or other staff sick.

Another way to improve staff and patient safety is to use in-room communication portals. These can be useful to minimize in-person interactions that take place in patients’ rooms. Typically a nurse or other staff member would simply enter a patient’s room to check on them, but now that social distancing is recommended, the fewer person-to-person interactions the better. Instead, with a bedside communication and a self-service portal, patients and medical staff can speak to one another via intercom to determine if it’s necessary for a nurse to go into the room and to have conversations, such as communicating updates, giving patients verbal directions and to check in with the patient while still practicing social distancing. With a communication and self-service kiosk, patients can also place their own service requests. This means rather than calling a nurse to help, instead they can place a meal order, not only does this prevent the nurse from entering the room but it streamlines communication and saves time rather than manually collecting meal orders. Additionally, patients can use the bedside portal to view videos and information regarding their recovery, physical therapy and more.

One system-integrator platform can be used to manage and monitor all of a pop-up hospital’s technology, such as these communication kiosks, access control, wander management, fire systems, nurse call, etc., This makes running and operating all of this technology much easier and enhances their capabilities by allowing the systems to work together. Without a system integrator, staff would have to manage all of them separately which means they would be receiving alerts and information from these systems in multiple ways. This makes it easy to miss an alert and inhibit workflow. However, when these systems are integrated to one platform, staff members are able to receive all of their alerts from a single source to ensure nothing is missed. These alerts can be set up to be sent to a single specific individual or to an entire group of people automatically via text, text to voice calls, emails, PA announcements, dashboard messages on mobile devices or monitors, and more.

One challenge of working in a pop-up hospital is being in an unfamiliar space with an unfamiliar team. An efficient communication system is a great tool that can help staff properly manage their new environment. With a mobile messaging dashboard, staff can receive detailed alerts regarding their patients as well as messages from staff with important information or updates. For instance, if a patient presses their call button an alert that reads “Patient in need - Room 103,” can automatically be sent out to the appropriate nursing staff. From their mobile device a nurse can accept this alert, which immediately informs the rest of the staff that someone is responding to the alert. This streamlines patient care and decreases interrupted workflow by ensuring multiple staff members don’t respond to one situation. Because these devices would be connected to the same system integrator, they would be able to receive alerts from patient’s kiosks, door access, wander management, and whatever else the pop-up chooses to integrate.

It’s an understatement to say that this global pandemic is unpleasant for a lot of people, and it can be especially difficult for those who are either working in or are in need of medical care. Fortunately, providing staff and patients with the right technology can make an unpleasant situation a lot better. Since safety, security and communication are more important now than ever, creating an environment that promotes those functions is what’s most important.

Amy Jeffs serves as vice president of Status Solutions.