Nova Scotia hospital’s new facility to leverage IT

Around this time next year, the medical and support staff of the Colchester Regional Hospital in Truro, Nova Scotia hope to be celebrating the holidays in a new facility, one that will be bigger, brighter and have some of the latest technology.

Now in the final stages of construction by the Colchester East Hants Health Authority, which offers services to 73,000 people in the area, the new $184 million institution “will leverage end-user IT into the future,” says Colin Stevenson, the authority’s vice-president of operations.

The target is to move into the new facility in November.

Under a $4.3 million agreement with Hewlett-Packard Co., which is acting as a systems integrator, the new 124-bed building will have an integrated group of IT services including a unified communications VoIP system and a bedside entertainment-services platform where patients can order meals or be shown their latest X-rays.

“Our goal was to make any (IT) system being put in place able to operate as seamless manner as possible,” Stevenson said.

Several years ago the authority realized that the existing hospital wasn’t big enough to serve the region. With provincial approval and funding, a decision was made to build a new facility, about 30 per cent bigger, a kilometer away. With a blank slate, the authority’s directors set out not only to design a comfortable facility, but one that was technologically up to date.

In 2009 it issued a request for proposals for an integrated system and the winner was HP’s healthcare provider division, which assembles what it calls a Digital Hospital solution for institutions.

Hospital productivity has been “stagnant” for 20 years, says Baldur Johnson, product manager for the division. While medicine has made great leaps in that time, work processes in hospitals have made slower improvements. In part, he said, that’s because the processes have been separate instead of integrated. “There are a lot of mundane, repetitive tasks that are performed. Often you think of chaos.”

For example, when a patient presses a button for help, staff don’t know if it’s an emergency or a request for a glass of water. Nurses usually at a nursing station have to walk to the patient’s room, walk back to the nursing station, get water (or medicine), walk back …

Some survey estimate that only 20 per cent of a nurse’s time is spent in direct patient care, Johnson said. The proper use of technology can help increase the time doctors and nurses spend with patients, he said.

Existing hospitals can add technology here and there, but a new facility offers more opportunities.

HP’s solution for Colchester includes a wired and wireless network, a. unified communications system, using voice-over-IP phones from Cisco Systems Inc. that nurses will carry, and a patient bedside system from iMatis of Norway that looks like a self-contained PC. What Stevenson calls the “low voltage” systems being installed by the electrical contractor, such as the nurse call and patient alarm systems, are integrated with the IP network.

At a state-of-the-art system, such as one built under HP’s direction in for a hospital in Norway, there are robotic vehicles that cruise the halls delivering supplies. Colchester doesn’t go that far.

But Stevenson said some of the new facility’s information will be digital and can be called up on the bedside terminals – everything from lab results to educational material doctors will want to show patients. While some admissions work will be done on computer, intially the new facility will be paper-based. Stevenson hopes to switch to all-digital in 2013 or 2014.

What about doctors and nurses toting smart phones and tablets? The system will be open for that. “What we’re trying to do,” he said, “is make sure the infrastructure we have will allow us to leverage whatever the most appropriate device is.”


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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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