Can Technology Put You Back in Control in the Hospital?

by Bruce Leshan, WUSA

FAIRFAX, Va. (WUSA) — Doctors, hospitals, surgery: if you or someone you love has ever been really sick, you probably know how out of control you can feel.

A small Bethesda tech company called GetWellNetwork is building a business trying to put patients back in control of their health care.

Jeff Relkin jokes that his surgery was like a Roto Rooter of the back, the interactive program from GetWellNetworks lets him see what really happened with his laminectomy and spinal fusion. “The spine consists of 33 vertebrae that protect the spinal cord and provide stability to the torso,” says the video he’s called up with a keyboard and remote at his bedside. When it get to “lumbar fusion,” Relkin tells the nurse, “That’s what I’m having.”

The program lets you track your doctors, your medicine, even send a message to reset the temperature in your hospital room. “If their room is too hot, they’re actually sending a message down to housekeeping to take care of that need, and within an hour, the patient’s being asked, “Has someone been here to take care of that need?'” demonstrates CEO Michael O’Neil, Jr.

As we leave, the nurse at the station tells us engineering has been calling to make sure the room is comfortable after we clicked a complaint box four times for the benefit of the video camera.

Patients can also watch on demand movies, play video games, and surf the ‘net.

The graphics may not be cutting edge, but “it doesn’t have to be slick,” says Relkin. “It just has to work. And this definitely works.”

Relkin says it puts him back in charge of his care. “What is going on, who is doing what, how it’s happening, what the post operative care is going to be, is extremely comforting.”

The hope is informing patients about their care will help them recover more quickly, like warning them of the danger of falling after back surgery. “Many times patients fall, because they don’t even know they’re at risk for fall,” says CEO O’Neil.

Inova Fair Oaks is spending $1.3 million on GetWellNetwork — and nurses, patients and administrators say it’s been well worth it.

O’Neil came up with the idea for GetWellNetwork while in the hospital fighting non-Hodgkins lymphoma and feeling out of touch.

It’s now in 70 hospitals including Children’s and Inova Fair Oaks.

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Josh Sandberg

Josh Sandberg is the President and CEO of Ortho Spine Partners and sits on several company and industry related Boards. He also is the Creator and Editor of OrthoSpineNews.

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