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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 May, 2003, 08:54 GMT 09:54 UK
'Smart' hospital to improve care
Doctor with large screen
The team is looking at how to use computer technology in healthcare

The hospital of the future could have beds that monitor patients and drugs that warn you if you are taking the wrong pill.

These are just some of the ideas that researchers in Denmark have come up with to improve the treatment of patients.

The team at the Center for Pervasive Computing at Aarhus University have found that most computer hardware and software is unsuitable for use in hospitals.

Instead, they are working on adapting the technology for future use by doctors and nurses.

Patient monitoring

"Computer technology is made for office use so it requires a large desktop with plenty of room," explained Dr Jakob Bardram, research manager at the Center for Pervasive Computing.

Dr Jakob Bardram, research manager at the Center for Pervasive Computing
We are experimenting with putting computers into the pills themselves
Dr Jakob Bardram, Center for Pervasive Computing

"In a hospital, the working environment is that you are walking about the whole hospital all of the time and you never sit down," he told the BBC programme Go Digital.

To try to get the most out of computer technology in hospitals, the researchers at Aarhus University have developed a prototype of a so-called intelligent bed.

These hospital beds have computers built into them, with sensors that monitor the patient and can adjust the position of the bed automatically.

The bed prototypes also have a screen which can display a patient's notes, so there is no need for a paper copy of the medical records on the bed or even the need for doctors to carry a handheld computer.

Computer drugs

In order to make sure that only the appropriate medical staff can access a patient's records, the team are developing smart pens, using security technology used by banks.

Bed with computer display
Hospital beds would have built in computer display

"We are trying to embed chips in pens so that doctors and nurses can use them to identify themselves to all the displays," said Dr Bardram.

The team are also working on using smart technology to make sure that patients get the right drugs.

They have put small computers the size of a small coin into pill boxes. The idea is that these would light or beep when a nurse walks by the bed of the patient to whom the pill box belongs.

The researchers are going by step further by using computers the size of the head of a needle.

"We are experimenting with putting computers into the pills themselves," said Dr Bardram.

"So the pill would be able to communicate with the pill container and then you can be certain about what kind of medication you are giving the patient."

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