Spotlight: Virtual Reality Takes Staff, Physicians Through New Hospital

Spotlight: Virtual Reality Takes Staff, Physicians Through New Hospital


FLORENCE — A walking tour through North Alabama Regional Medical Center while it is still just a bunch of steel and construction plans was made possible with virtual reality technology.

Hospital department leaders, nurses, and physicians were able to tour different types of hospital rooms to check the setup and functionality of the rooms and make changes on the spot.

Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital Chief Operating Officer Mike Howard said when modifications are noted during the virtual reality tour, those changes can be made immediately to three-dimensional computer renderings.

The virtual reality tours were set up in a Layton Construction trailer at the hospital site in east Florence.

“Previously, we would have had to build out these actual rooms, perhaps in a warehouse space one by one,” Howard said. “This saves time and money and makes changes much more streamlined.”

The new hospital will replace ECM and change names when it opens, which is expected in late 2018.

Keith Allen, vice president for real estate with RCCH Health Partners, the company that owns ECM, said utilizing virtual reality technology is new for the construction industry. “This is the first time Layton Construction has ever used this capability on a project,” Allen said.
Using virtual reality goggles and a wireless, hand-held controller, users could peek inside patient rooms, the hospital nursery, or an intensive care unit room.
Howard said virtual reality models of an emergency department exam room, an endoscopy procedure room, an intensive care unit room, a labor and delivery room, and nursery, an inpatient room, a robotic-equipped operating room, and a surgery recovery room were made for the tour.
He said changes were made after the first wave of care staff did the virtual tour.

“In the critical care room, we had some oversized furniture that would have been in the way of our front-line staff caring for patients,” he said. “We also noticed some of the outlets and medical gases (hook-ups) needed to be moved.”

Hospital staff and physicians that practice at the hospital had access to the virtual reality tour all day Friday. Also available were renderings of the inside of the hospital that showed the hallways and elongated main entrance, and lobby that mimic the shape of the Tennessee River. Architectural beams that replicate the shape of O’Neal Bridge hang from the lobby ceiling.

The first steel beam was placed in the middle of March. Since then, more of the skeleton of the hospital has been assembled. The steel structure for the center column of the hospital is in the works, and portions of the wings that span from the center are being put in place.

About 2,800 tons of raw steel is being used to build the frame. The new hospital will be 485,000 square feet.


Photo Credit: Allison Carter / TimesDaily

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