High-tech hospital, low-tech charm Canada's newest hospital, Brampton Civic, boasts leading-edge equipment for safety and efficiency Oct 12, 2007 04:30 AM Prithi Yelaja Staff Reporter Toronto Star If you feel like you've stepped into an opera house or an art gallery when you enter the new Brampton Civic Hospital, it will be mission accomplished for John Christie. The lead architect of the high-tech hospital, slated to open Oct. 28, says his goal in designing it was to provide an esthetic rather than an antiseptic ambiance. The focal point of the 1.2 million-square-foot building is a soaring, 90-metre-long, three-storey high, light-filled atrium lined with windows on one side and oak and maple woods on the other. "The atrium is a space that could be a showcase for the hospital. The nice aspect is it can, on occasion, be a community space," says Christie, who exclusively designs health care facilities. With city halls, opera houses and art galleries, only some of the population will be lucky enough to take advantage of that space and visit those buildings, he adds. Located off the main entrance, by day the atrium will be the waiting area for one of the hospital's busiest areas â€“ diagnostic imaging â€“ as well as a major corridor anchoring the emergency department at one end. The building is also environmentally friendly. "To try to use less lighting during the day, we've put into place access to natural lighting wherever possible," says Christie. The natural light from the atrium, for example, penetrates three corridors deep into the building, through the use of various glass technologies and the placement and design of interior windows. "It's not only green but it also has a healthy psychological effect. ... Many people will come to the hospital early in the morning. The light in the atrium provides a welcoming gesture ... ." The glass used in the atrium has a reflective surface and is interspersed with solid panels that create shading, so as not to unduly burden the air-conditioning system. In parts of the building primarily used during the day, air, heat and light systems are on timers that turn down automatically at night. Storm water will be collected to irrigate outside landscaping. The floors are made of natural fibres â€“ linseed oil, cork and jute â€“ instead of the more typical vinyl. A grass and tree-filled courtyard features a children's playground. Paperless care Brampton Civic aims to be as paperless as possible. Electronic patient charts will begin when it opens Oct. 28. Old paper records will be scanned so they are instantly available online. "It completely eliminates the need for large storage rooms for paper charts and also reduces the resources needed for filing and retrieving those charts. The benefit to patients is their records are available immediately within the hospital or those physician offices or hospitals connected to the system," says Roseann Pacheco, project co-ordinator. "The most obvious benefit for clinicians is they don't have to call for a patient chart to come to them. It can be viewed by any number of clinicians at the same time." The hospital will also have 500 handheld wireless devices that integrate a range of calls, including bedside calls, codes and alarms, so nurses and doctors can see wave patterns and vital signs from anywhere in the hospital. It's all possible because of the powerful computer centre in the hospital's basement and A-class wireless coverage, which will include hot spots for patient use. ER tracking A "greet nurse" is your first point of contact. She logs you on to the PulseCheck system, the hospital's central database, and then sends you to the triage nurse who will take your vital signs and decide how urgently you need to be seen. The department is divided into five zones: fast track for minor cases: a secure pediatric unit; an acute area for trauma patients; a mental health unit and an isolation unit. PulseCheck, which electronically tracks patients through the hospital and gives personnel instant access to their records, is a godsend, says manager Marilyn Coons. "We see somewhere between 180 and 250 patients a day, and right now in our department it's very difficult to keep track of patients. With our new system we'll always know where everybody is all the time." Employing a fingerprint scan to sign on, PulseCheck provides nurses and doctors with details such as a patient's name, gender, age and complaint; staff assigned to care; lab orders; test results; and length of stay â€“ tracked from the time the patient enters emergency. Self-serve kiosks Brampton Civic is the first hospital in North America to use a self-serve patient registration for outpatients. Ten booths will offer the service in eight languages, including Italian, Hindi, French and Punjabi, via a touch-screen. After you choose your language, you swipe your health card, which is linked to the Ministry of Health and immediately verified or rejected. The screen then asks you to confirm what treatment you are scheduled for that day. It prints a map to take you to the treatment area. It asks you to answer a few questions for infection-control purposes. Total time: 60 seconds. It then directs you to the fast lane, where a clerk checks your photo identification before issuing an ID bracelet. By next year, the bracelet will include a scannable bar code. Robot with pills A gigantic two-headed robot in the hospital's basement called PillPick â€“ the largest such device in a North American hospital â€“ stores and dispenses medications in single-dose packets with a bar code. "It has a 99.9 per cent accuracy in delivery. It was chosen for patient safety as well as efficiency, to ensure the right patient is getting the right pill at the right time, " says consultant Carol Dueck. Pharmacy technicians deliver the drugs to nursing stations and stock medication cabinets, called MedCOWs, with drugs for each patient for a 24-hour period. The hospital will have 53 automatic dispensing units â€“ like an ATM for pills â€“ so nurses can access narcotics and other controlled drugs they need to give as symptoms arise. Currently nurses manually record drug administration, but by next year they'll be able to scan the bar code on the pill packet to enter that information into the computer and cross-check it with the bar code on the patient's ID bracelet. For intravenous drugs the hospital will have 990 SmartPumps, which have electronic drug libraries.