Intensive care units were born out of the development of new technologies to treat the most critical patients. The first ICUs were built to house mechanical ventilators to treat polio patients in the 1950s. Technology has come a long way since then, and ICUs have adapted to accommodate these changes. ICUs are at the forefront of the current healthcare conversation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and technology is playing a crucial role in keeping patients and staff safe.

FreemanWhite has a client whose original ICU was built in the early 1970s and needed to revamp this outdated unit into a state-of-the-art ICU. The renovation in-place faced several challenges, such as working around existing columns and handling the existing electrical rooms that serve the ORs below, mechanical chases and ducts, and plumbing that serves the floors above and below. The result is a 21-room unit, built to current codes, with rooms that are approximately twice the size of the original rooms. The rooms also include the latest technologies that will work toward the safety of staff and patients.

Mechanical Technology

Patient lifts are a crucial piece of equipment in the ICU, but in many units only a few rooms have them, which can lead to unsafe conditions for both patients and staff. Lifting patients manually can cause muscle strain for staff, leading to absenteeism among the unit’s highly skilled personnel. Our client decided it was critical that every room in its upgraded unit have a ceiling-mounted patient room to improve safety.

Our client also wanted every room to be set up for patients who may need dialysis. To accommodate these patients, a water connection was added on the headwall so hoses would not have to drag across the room from the sink to the bedside. In addition, each room now has a closet for keeping the dirty hamper as well as a clinical sink so staff will no longer have to carry dirty bedpans into the hallway. These simple additions improve the patient experience and prevent hazards from mobility and waste materials.

Information Is Power

In the updated ICU a tablet is located just outside of every patient room door for staff use. The tablets provide staff with crucial information such as whether the patient is a fall risk or has allergies, and all information is linked to the patient’s electronic medical records through Epic. The tablet also reminds staff to wash their hands and wear a mask before entering the room and alerts them if the patient is on either contact or airborne isolation and what PPE is required for the type of isolation.

Within the patient room is a wireless scanner that allows staff to scan items like medications to ensure proper tracking of the patient’s treatment. We also installed interactive whiteboards on the footboards to provide information to patients and staff. The main screen shows:

  • Patient information
  • Names of the care team
  • Weather
  • What type of a diet the patient is on
  • Patient activity level
  • If patient is a fall risk
  • If patient is on isolation
  • Patient schedules throughout that day so they know when they will be getting medications and if they have any imaging or therapy scheduled
  • Space where the staff can write on the board

Providers can scan their badges on this digital whiteboard and be given access to:

  • Vitals
  • Eyes and nose information
  • Respiratory
  • Infectious disease
  • Medications patient is on
  • X-rays

Both the TV and the digital whiteboard are mounted inside of the footwall, behind glass, for easy cleaning.

The result is a state-of-the-art ICU. 

Working together with every client, we strive to create the best environment not just for their patients but for their staff as well. Keeping staff healthy and safe is an important part of patient satisfaction.