The future of hospital waiting rooms has arrived


Maybe Cheescake Factory needs a monitor?

By Melissa Mansfield

You know how, when things get kind of busy at TGI Fridays or Cheesecake Factory, they give you those pagers and buzz you when your table is ready? Welcome to the future of hospital waiting rooms. It's arrived in Albany. And you know what? It's pretty cool.

So last week I took a friend to St. Peter's Hospital last week for surgery. As my friend headed into pre-op, I headed for the waiting room where a woman greeted me and asked if I had registered.

When I told her which patient I was waiting for, she handed me a beeper, and a piece of paper with a 6 digit code. She told me I would be paged once the doctor had some news and, if I liked, I could follow the procedure in real-time on monitors set up in the waiting room.

Monitored? In real time? Did she mean I could watch my friend's gall bladder get
removed? As it turns out, no. You don't get the gory details, just the stages of the procedure.

On the screens, the patient's number and doctor scrolled up, and I could see where she was in the course of the operation: Pre-Op, In OR, In Recovery, and Complete. Before I sat down, I saw my friend was already in the operating room. Hours later, her procedure was listed as "complete" and within a few minutes, my pager went off to meet the surgeon (Beep, Beep-- your friend is ready).

I was in the loop the whole time, I never had to go to a nurses station with questions and doctors didn't have to yell names across the waiting room. They're still working out the a few kinks. It was kind of busy that morning and they ran out of pagers. Instead they gave out the codes and called the numbers if there was news. But all in all, it worked pretty well.


While I think HIPA is silly and unnecessary (personally), doesn't this some how violate all kinds of HIPA laws?!

I would think it would violate HIPA to have patients' names broadcasted on a screen in the waiting room.

Not to be morbid, but do they display a certain message or code for death?

Ummmm... is not this a Hipa Violation?

My husband's had a few heart surgeries at St Peters over this past year (and more to come next month), and I'm not even joking when I tell you it took me about 2 hours to figure out that display monitor. I kept thinking that the doctors name was the patients name, and I was getting frustrated that my husbands name wasn't coming up on the screen, even if that meant a blatant HIPPA violation. So I eventually started watching the nearby tv instead, which for some reason is constantly looping episodes of Walker Texas Ranger. Seriously. One time I saw Chuck Norris throw a baseball into the sky, and a helicopter exploded. It was glorious. If only Chuck Norris could be a St Peters surgeon all of our problems would be solved.

So much for patient confidentiality!

It's the doctor's name, and a patient's code only given to family. It does not violate HIPA.

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) protects medical records, personal health information, your social security number, etc. Your name itself is not PHI, nor is your social on its own. It is using/abusing this information in combination that could be a violation. Nothing about this new system violates HIPAA, by design I'm sure, because the hospital could face huge fines otherwise.

Leigh's right; the fact of a patient's treatment is not protected by HIPAA, what s/he is being treated for is what's protected. My guess is that St. Peter's may ask patients to sign a release to allow their status to be posted -- I don't know if this is the case, but it might be an extra layer of HIPAA protection for the hospital.

Either way, I think it's a great idea and probably boosts efficiency and reduces aggravation for everyone.

Totally off topic, but I figured people here would know. Are the Times Union's servers down? I can't get onto the site from either my iPhone or my computer....anyone else having trouble?

@Ellen: Yes. I can't get on from my office or phone, either.

Kate and Leigh are correct about HIPAA. This system doesn't violate it because the patient name is not up there for everyone to see. That's why they have a code number and only certain people get it. The operative status of a code number doesn't violate any privacy laws.

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