By: Brian T. Horowitz
Print Version Sponsored By Hopes are high for technology to improve patient care, yet IT departments need to invest in the infrastructure required to run electronic health record (EHR) applications, according to a new report by CDW Healthcare.
CDW offers IT services to more than 15,000 health care organizations in the United States, including providers in rural areas as well as large hospital networks.
The research, called "Healthcare IT Tipping Point Report," found that 84 percent of caregivers believe health care IT improves the care of patients.
For the survey, CDW interviewed 200 health care IT professionals and 202 caregivers—doctors and nurses—at large hospitals between Jan. 9 and Jan. 23. The company announced the results March 6.
About 40 percent of caregivers said health care IT gives them more time to spend with patients.
"With well-conceived and supported health care IT, caregivers spend less time accessing and verifying information and more time using that information," Bob Rossi, vice president of CDW Healthcare, told eWEEK in an email. "Moreover, new endpoint systems put tools and information within reach of the caregiver while they are with the patient—proximity is a big advantage in utilization."
In the survey, 85 percent of doctors and nurses believed that the information gleaned from health care IT applications would lead to better patient care, while 72 percent thought technology would make care more accurate.
Meanwhile, 68 percent of caregivers interviewed believed IT workflows could help them follow up with patients.
Despite the prospects for patient care, the report exposed some challenges for IT in health care as far as networking, storage and computing, according to Rossi.
"As a report card on the performance of IT departments at large hospitals, this is a solid A," said Rossi. "That said, the survey results also demonstrate how out-of-balance systems can result in user frustration and wasted time."
Balancing new caregiver systems with infrastructure investments is a challenge, said Rossi.
"Consider that 58 percent of the surveyed health care IT professionals admitted to adding a server, storage or network program after hearing complaints of slowed systems from users," he noted.
Even as EHRs help doctors follow a patient's history, the applications can run slow without the proper infrastructure and the EHR software, or "endpoint systems," can be unintuitive, CDW reported.
"Without the supporting infrastructure, endpoint systems can end up slow, unreliable or extremely difficult to use," said Rossi. "No matter how great the tool, if the caregiver has to wait minutes to access it, or can only access it sporadically, the value will be substantially less."
The report also warned of a "crunch" as more wireless devices consume bandwidth and EHR and health information exchange (HIE) applications work off system resources.
"Just to add mobile devices to the networks, hospitals have had to increase infrastructure," Rossi noted. Of the health professionals surveyed, 55 percent added wireless devices, 44 percent purchased more security hardware or software, 38 percent added more software applications, 32 percent upgraded wireless network capacity and 32 percent bought new application servers, he said.
Rossi recommended that health care organizations anticipate the capacity needed for health IT, including wireless devices and EHR systems, ahead of time.
"Responding to user concerns after the fact is the most expensive approach to meeting infrastructure needs," said Rossi. "By capacity planning first, IT leaders can take the pressure off of infrastructure investment."
From: Jada A. Graves
Best Health Care Jobs
If you think landing a cushy job in healthcare requires Odyssean years of study and grunt work followed by decades to pay back student loans, you'd be mistaken. Although there are fast-growing occupations on our list that demand rigorous training (as they should), the Department of Labor projects that the number of healthcare support jobs (like medical assistant or clinical laboratory technician) should increase more rapidly than any other major occupational group up to the year 2020. Neither job requires more than an associate's degree. [See the 50 Best Jobs of 2012.] Actually, there should be outstanding prospects for almost any job within this industry. Approximately 5.6 million new openings will appear for healthcare workers and those working in social services. For registered nurses, which made No. 1 on our Best Jobs for 2012 list, more than 700,000 positions are expected to open up in the next few years.
Here's our list of the Best Healthcare Jobs of 2012:
#6-Clinical Laboratory Technician
By: Shahid Shah
I’ve written and presented recently on a number of “Do’s and Dont’s” around medical device integration, mobile health, EHRs, and various related topics. Some of you have asked if I could do something similar on the subject of RFID. Since I’m not an expert on the topic, I reached out to Yedidia Blonder, a Product Manager at Vizbee RFID Solutions. Vizbee offers RFID applications for multiple industries, including a patient and hospital asset tracking application for healthcare institutions. They’re really good at what they do and I agree with their general approach. Here’s what Yedidia had to say about the do’s and dont’s of RFID in hospitals:
RFID (radio frequency identification) is a very powerful tool for hospital management. With its ability to identify tagged persons and objects individually, from distances of meters away, RFID can assist in equipment localization and protection, prevention and containment of hospital acquired infections, infant protection, and improvement of the patient experience and safety.
But simply installing any RFID system in your hospital does not mean that the benefits are now yours for the taking. If you want everything to run smoothly and to get maximum ROI out of RFID, here are some do’s and don’ts for efficient use and implementation of healthcare RFID.
- Don’t rely on existing infrastructure without checking it thoroughly. For example, if the tracking system picked relies on a WiFi based technologies, users tend to think that they can rely on the existing infrastructure in the hospital. Usually this is not the case; the existing infrastructure needs to be expanded in order to support the new usage. Check with your hospital computer staff what the capacity of the existing WiFi network is, and what the daily usage is for hospital activities. Then check with the tracking system provider to see what bandwidth is required for system operation. Do the math.If the technology is not WiFi based, check with the system provider if it requires independent infrastructure (aside from the tags, readers and software). If so, check with your computer staff about the existence of the infrastructure (and usage stats, as above). If it does not exist, investigate what costs and efforts are involved in installing it (at proper capacity).
- Do assess the exact hardware and configuration solution along with the number of persons/objects you will be tagging. Too many RFID tags operating on the same frequency in a small area can interfere with each other. If you need to track many items in such a location you might need (as one example) tags that emit signals only when moving between zones.
- Do check that the system you choose can distinguish between the important zones in your institution. For example, if you need room level localization, make sure the system you get has the ability to distinguish between rooms easily even if the hospital rooms have plaster walls. Additionally, heavy metal objects or extra-large pieces of equipment may interfere with localization and give wrong results if the system settings don’t take that into consideration.
- Don’t get software with an interface that looks like you need a degree in IT to understand it. Hospital RFID systems are primarily used by doctors and nurses, so make it as intuitive and automatic to the non-technical person as possible. Any maps on the user interface should be a clean, clear picture of the floor layout. Symbols (for medical equipment, medication, restricted areas) should be the same symbols that are commonly used in hospitals. Make sure the system has easy and guided navigation: if a staff member has entered the “patient tracking” menu, he should only be seeing patient tracking functions, not equipment tracking functions or information – or any other options. This way the staff will not feel “Data Overload!” when they sign in.
- Don’t require the nurses to set the software settings. Default settings for RFID tags should be pre-programmed into the system, with settings determined in advance by the system provider in consultation with the hospital staff, so that all the nurse has to do is click “infant tag” “staff tag” “mobile equipment tag”, and the system will know how to respond to the tag.
- Do integrate into the existing work routines of the staff. Make sure the system has a profile definition functionality. When staff members log into the system, they should get options that are relevant to their profile (a “nurse profile” staff member will start with a menu of options relevant to nurse duties in the hospital, and the same for a doctor, a computer technician, etc.). Telling a nurse who has worked in the hospital for 20 years that she now needs to spend more time learning how to work the system than deal with patients will lower the efficiency of your RFID system dramatically. It won’t be used correctly and/or it will be hated – neither of which is good for ROI. Beyond knowing what options to display according to profile, a good system will also use machine learning capabilities to tailor its display to each individual. After a week or two of usage, the system should be able to determine which capacity is used the most by Nurse Joan (say, equipment tracking) and place that as the focus on the screen, allowing for immediate access to searching. If later on task management becomes the most used capability, it should take center stage.
- Don’t just think that RFID is about asset tracking. What RFID can do for a healthcare institution is far beyond tracking down wheelchairs. If you’re installing an RFID system, make sure you use it to its fullest capabilities. Examples might include infection control, minimizing patient wait time for tests, preventing infant abduction and assuring the correct patient receives the correct medication.
By: Marla Durben Hirsch - Contributing Editor
The more advanced a hospital's electronic medical records system, the greater the benefit to the hospital, according to a survey of 33 hospitals that have achieved stages 6 and 7 of the EMR adoption model (EMRAM) scale, the most advanced levels of EMR use and functionality.
Hospitals that have implemented these advanced EMRs have done so with the specific purpose of improving clinical quality and patient safety and have used at least one method to measure a return on their EMR investment, according to the survey, conducted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society and The Advisory Board.
Nearly 80 percent of the respondents reported multiple core measures and/or safety benefits, such as reduction of adverse drug events (73 percent) and quality measures improvement in venous thromboembolism (73 percent) or stroke (70 percent).
"Hospitals with more advanced EMRs may be more able and likely to realize substantial benefits," the researchers noted.
The authors also theorized that hospitals that have little to show for their efforts, besides the high cost of implementation staffing, may have shown a lack of attention to measuring the benefits of using EMRs.
The study doesn't explicitly say that hospitals that adopt EMRs merely to attain the incentive payment and/or avoid the upcoming reimbursement penalties are less likely to achieve a measurable benefit to adoption. However, other reports have suggested that measuring an EMR's financial or clinical benefits aids in its successful adoption.