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BIRMINGHAM (December 17, 2012) – Children’s of Alabama launched its first web application today, offering families a much easier way to track patients’ surgery progress from smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers.

Surgical waiting areas are already equipped with monitors that track the progress of each child’s surgical visit through private identification numbers, said Garland Stansell, Children’s Chief Communications Officer. Those waiting room monitors indicate whether a child is in pre-op, in the operating room or in recovery, similar to the airline tracker signs used in airport terminals.
Children’s new app – which can be downloaded for free at - offers that same real-time information, but sends the information to the user’s smartphone or tablet, which allows the user to leave the lobby area if desired.

“Now families are no longer confined to our surgical waiting rooms,” Stansell said. “Through a simple three-step process they can access the same information that’s on those screens while they wait elsewhere on campus, get a cup of coffee or eat a meal.”

Parents can also share their children’s identification numbers and the website with others not at the hospital. Extended family or friends can then track their loved ones’ progress through their electronic devices, even if they are out of state.

“The goal was to give parents who had children in surgery a way to view their child’s progress on their mobile or on a desktop outside the waiting room, so they don’t have to remain in the waiting room,” said Daniel Heisler, Senior Software Developer at Children’s, who developed the app along with Children’s Surgical Services Patient Flow Team. “If the patient is in a six-hour surgery, they can have the app on their phone, should they decide to go take a walk or get a cup of coffee. Then they’ll know exactly where their child is, so they’ll be ready when the nurse calls them back to speak with the doctor or to see their child.”

The application was piloted earlier this year and is now in full use. It follows the early December debut of the hospital’s mobile website. These communication advances are credited to August’s opening of the $400 million Benjamin Russell Hospital for Children expansion and an increased emphasis on improving the patient families’ healthcare experience.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to better serve our patients’ families with up-to-the-minute information on how their children are progressing through surgery,” Stansell said. “We know it is hard to wait, and especially in lengthy operations, as parents our anxiety levels seem to increase as the hours pass. We hope this will relieve some of the stress, giving families a way to move about the facilities and still monitor their children’s progress.”

Heisler said the app was built on existing data, since nurses and physicians already document each patient’s status in real time through the hospital’s electronic tracking systems. In the past parents had to rely on verbal updates from those staffing waiting room areas. Now they may not only monitor changes themselves, but can pass that information to others.

“As a parent and a software developer, I always think about what would calm my nerves a bit,” Heisler said. “I’m glad we are able to offer this for other families.”

Children’s of Alabama has provided specialized medical care for ill and injured children since 1911, offering inpatient and outpatient services for children from every county in Alabama. Children from 47 other states have also received treatment there. With more than two million square feet, Children’s is the third-largest pediatric medical facility in the U.S. It has been ranked among the top children’s hospital programs in the country for the past three years by U.S. News & World Report.