Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles opened in 2015 as a safety net hospital with a focus on cutting-edge technology.

MLK Community Hospital (MLKCH) serves about 1.3 million people in South Los Angeles, a mostly low-income area with few other medical facilities.  The city of Los Angeles, in partnership with the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center, seeks to provide high-quality emergency department and inpatient care to patients in the area at the new facility.

This strategy has a clear tech focus. The hospital's electronic health record interfaces with the Los Angeles County Department of Health for interoperability and sharing of patient medical records for care continuity. [Patients are generally seen at county public health clinics for outpatient care.]

The inpatient facility was constructed to integrate technology into care delivery. All inpatient beds are smartbeds that weigh each patient automatically each day and record the findings in the patient's EHR. The smartbeds also detect when a patient is getting out of bed and can alert the attending nurse if the patient is deemed a fall risk.

All clinicians carry secure smartphones that interface with the EHR system and inpatient biomedical devices. The hospital also uses smart bar coding for the pharmacy to track medication stocking and usage patterns, and conduct other materials management functions.

Technology is integrated into patient care plans. Each patient in the hospital, even those in the ED, is assigned a care coordinator, with the goal of reducing readmissions and provide targeted care to each patient. The hospital has 85,000 ED visits per year, twice the number expected when the hospital opened. The EHR is integrated with population health management tools and dashboards for disease management and patient tracking.

“There is a reservoir of untreated medical conditions,“ says Elaine Batchlor, M.D., CEO, adding that the average annual per capita income for community members is $11,400.

In December 2016, MLKCH launched its first outpatient medical practice and a nonprofit medical group, with five providers. The hospital plans to incorporate hospital-at-home features for patients including at-home biometric monitoring and virtual visits, Batchlor says.

Establishing high standards for care quality and technology adoption have been important to the hospital's success, says Batchlor. For instance, the hospital banned fax machines, even on multiuse copiers, throughout the hospital prior to the opening.

Sajid Ahmed, chief information officer, says he instituted the fax ban to improve security and patient privacy. Instead, the hospital uses e-fax capabilities in the EHR.

Technology is important for underserved communities to adopt because of severe provider shortages, Ahmed said. South Los Angeles is short about 1,200 physicians, according to studies. The hospital engages in telemedicine with providers at UCLA Medical Center including telestroke, teleinfection control, telepsychiatry and teleneonatal services. The entire hospital is wired for telemedicine, so adding new specialties doesn't require upgrades or significant spending.

“We designed the foundation so the hospital could leverage future technology,“ Ahmed says.

The hospital achieved the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Stage 6 EMR adoption, and is working on achieving Level 7 this year, Ahmed says.

Additionally, MLKCH engages in cybersecurity measures such as remote hosting; firewalls; two-factor authentication; device encryption; complex and frequently changed passwords; and blocked USB ports in the hospital.

“We've probably engaged in every cybersecurity best practice,“ says Ahmed. “We are prepared for when the attack will happen, not if."