Siemens Corporation is to work with the US HealthSouth Corporation to create a groundbreaking totally integrated, all-digital and completely automated hospital.

Technology will be used in every part of the new hospital to improve quality and save costs. Every patient treated in the new hospital will wear a "wellness monitor" to monitor their vital signs and track their location, and every bed will be equipped with telemonitoring facilities and connected to the hospital information system allowing X-rays to be called up at the patient’s bedside.

Crucially for Siemens the project will be one of the first installations of its flagship new Soarian health IT system, claimed to be the first health information solution built entirely for the web.

Siemens will serve as the primary technology provider for the HealthSouth Medical Centre, currently under construction in Birmingham, Alabama, providing healthcare information technology applications and infrastructure, medical equipment, telecommunications, and "smart" building technologies.

The HealthSouth-Siemens agreement marks the first time that a major US healthcare company has turned to a single source to fully integrate the medical technologies, network systems, telecommunications, and building technologies for one of its facilities.

"Unlike the hospitals of the 20th Century which relied on disparate islands of technology, the new HealthSouth Medical Centre will be fully integrated so that clinical images and vital patient information will be available to healthcare professionals when it is needed, where it is needed," said Klaus Kleinfeld, president and chief executive officer of Siemens Corporation.

He added: "We believe that an integrated solution will result in streamlined workflow, improved patient care and safety, and significant cost savings for the hospital."

HealthSouth says it will spend $100-125m to construct and equip the hospital with is due to be completed by late 2003.

HealthSouth first announced its ‘digital hospital’ initiative in April 2001 and broke ground for the new facility in December last year. HealthSouth believes that the digital hospital will be significantly more economical and safer than current hospital models.

Oracle has been named as a technology partner and will supply integrated web-based administration and business systems.

Technological features of the hospital will include patient beds with display screens connected to the Internet, electronic medical records storage, digital imaging rather than traditional X-ray film, and a hospital-wide wireless communications network.

Vital patient information from their "wellness monitors" will be linked through a networking platform that enables physicians to monitor a patient’s medical status anytime, anywhere.

Siemens will also connect each hospital bed to the Internet, enabling videoconferencing for physicians or family members. The company’s security monitors will verify the identity of nurses and doctors to ensure only those authorised can gain access to restricted portions of the facility, as well as the hospital intranet.