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Fraunhofer Group for Microelectronics

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Test run for the hospital of the future

It is a future workshop at a realistic scale: the Duisburg-based inHaus Center. In the newly opened “Hospital Engineering Laboratory,” Fraunhofer researchers, together with partners from research and industry, want to make hospitals fit for the future. They are working on holistic solutions to optimize processes with technological support.

 

Automatic documentation using RFID radio chips as well as a mobile operating table requiring fewer bed transfers of patients make things easier for staff. Photo: Fraunhofer / Markus Steur
Automatic documentation using RFID radio chips as well as a mobile operating table requiring fewer bed transfers of patients make things easier for staff. Photo: Fraunhofer / Markus Steur
Networked assistance systems give staff more time to care for patients during hectic days. Photo: pixelio.de / JMG
Networked assistance systems give staff more time to care for patients during hectic days. Photo: pixelio.de / JMG

One hospital in five is in the red, and plenty also have chronic staff shortages. These are difficult conditions in which to fulfill the high levels of quality expected of patient care and comfort. This challenge cannot be solved in fits and starts, because the performance of a hospital is based on many factors: medical expertise; efficient high-tech systems; and closely coordinated procedures between management, wards, doctors, and suppliers – suppliers of medical equipment, for example.

Analyzing scenarios in everyday Conditions

Smart technologies and optimized processes can help hospitals to work more efficiently while also maintaining high standards of quality. In the Hospital Engineering Laboratory at the Duisburg-based Fraunhofer in-Haus Center, which opened in July of this year, researchers from four Fraunhofer institutes are now investigating exactly how that might work. The laboratory offers users, manufacturers, and scientists a modern development and test environment covering approximately 350 m² of space, with an operating room; patients‘, nurses‘, and doctors’ rooms; rehabilitation space with training equipment; and storage and functional rooms. This model hospital allows many varied clinical scenarios to be analyzed in everyday conditions: from supplies of materials and energy to the IT infrastructure linking the hospital to, say, its doctors. Even new processes and procedures can be evaluated with regard to patient safety and costs.

Linking information and people

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems IMS are working within the project on new solutions for networked assistance systems. These are intended to increase comfort and safety for patients by allowing the environment to be adapted to patients‘ special needs – for example, automatic height adjustment of bathroom equipment for patients who cannot stand. Functions like this give staff more time to focus on patient care. Another area being looked at covers mobile RFID chips. RFID labels can be used, for instance, to automatically monitor and document many processes in both operations and care – whether to determine which patient and which staff are currently in the operating room or whether the necessary materials and equipment have been provided for an operation.

Sensor systems increase independence

Sensor-based systems in patients‘ rooms allow additional functions for comfort and safety. The scientists are working on a patient terminal to give patients with reduced mobility more independence. The technology, for example, can allow a window to be opened or the heating to be adjusted from the bed. Modern sensor systems, however, are not only capable of receiving and passing on; they can also interpret signals based on context. This makes them suitable for independent emergency alarm systems such as the “fall-detecting shower.” In this system, a specially designed hardware and software concept detects whether a patient has fallen in the shower, in which case it automatically issues an alarm call to the nursing staff.

Hospital Engineering Project

Four Fraunhofer institutes are involved in the “Hospital Engineering” project: Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems IMS • Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology UMSICHT • Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML • Fraunhofer Institute for Software and Systems Engineering ISST (project coordination).

Contact:

Martin van Ackeren
Phone +49 203 37 83-130
martin.van.ackeren(at)ims.fraunhofer.de

Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems IMS
Finkenstrasse 61
47057 Duisburg
Germany
www.ims.fraunhofer.de