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Children's hospital installs online system to give families daily updates

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Children's Specialized Hospital in New Brunswick is the first rehabilitation children's hospital to equip its patient rooms with an interactive online system that provides families with daily clinical updates and educational tutorials, while giving young patients movies, games and e-mail to help pass the time.

Families and patients use the system, from the health care technology company GetWellNetwork, to be alerted to clinical procedures and therapy sessions scheduled each day, and to query nurses, dieticians, pharmacy and housekeeping.

GetWellNetwork has put its system in several general, acute-care hospitals in New Jersey, including Virtua, Somerset Medical Center, Saint Clare’s and Princeton University Medical Center.

The nearly 20,000 patients that Children’s Specialized cares for each year include children with brain and spinal cord injuries, birth trauma, autism and developmental delays.

Donna Provenzano, director of family-centered care, said, “Our goal in rehabilitation is to help educate and train our patients and families so that we can get them functioning back in their community.”

During the typical six-to-eight-week stays, families can use the new system to learn at their own pace: “One mom watched a video three times, she took notes, she was able to ask questions,” Provenzano said.

Some children use the system easily, and the hospital is collaborating with GetWellNetwork, based in Bethesda, Md., to design adaptations for patients with disabilities.

The system was installed in December with funds donated by L’Oreal USA. Morris Lenczicki, L’Oreal vice president, said the 300 employees at the company’s offices in Clark decided in 2008 to focus their philanthropy on the hospital, and to date have raised about $2 million through an annual golf outing. He said the GetWellNetwork system was funded with a portion of the $550,000 L’Oreal raised for the hospital over the past year.

Previous donations have helped build new facilities, and provide specialized staff training and employee recognition. “We have always wanted to find a way to give back to the families and the patients,” Lenczicki said. The new system addresses the huge need families have for real-time information and long-term education “and in the case of patients who are children, having some fun while you are there,” he said.

Michael O’Neill Jr., chief executive of GetWellNetwork, said for most hospitals, the patient stay is three or four days, and the network provides information about medication as well as discharge information to smooth the transition from hospital to home.

But in the rehabilitation hospital environment, “There is an incredible opportunity to transform the way they educate and engage their patients and families in their journey of care.” The education provided to patients via the system is long term and multiphase, with the goal of moving move patients and their families from being reactive and dependent to being independent and proactive, he said.

The system also helps use nursing time more efficiently, O’Neill said. “Nurses spend a lot of time tracking down information and materials and bringing them to the bedside. We are streamlining and automating a lot of manual nursing activity around patient education, medication and discharge information.”

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Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald reports on health care, small business and higher education. She joined NJBIZ in 2008 after a 34-year career at the Star-Ledger and has been reporting on business in New Jersey since 1978. Her email is beth@njbiz.com and she is @bethfitzgerald8 on Twitter.

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