As the Spotlight Remains Affixed to EHRs, Hospitals Shine Light on Supporting Technologies

More than three years after the advent of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's HITECH Act, the spotlight continues to shine bright on electronic health records. The technology remains a steadfast headline maker. Right or wrong, it is not going to change any time soon, but undoubtedly the healthcare industry is learning as it goes and growing from experience. For the most part, hospital leaders have responded with mixed approaches to health information technology investment, some favoring to follow the letter of the law set forth by the CMS as needed, while other hospitals have ventured that going beyond simply meeting proposed requirements will spark further innovation in the way healthcare is delivered and have invested accordingly.

For the majority of hospitals, EHRs have been the primary focus for health IT spending to date, but a growing number of hospitals are seeing medical device integration as the next step. According to a recent study from healthcare technology research firm, CapSite, 44 percent of hospitals have recently invested in a medical device integration solution. These and other more forward-thinking hospitals are realizing that beyond the EHR, there are technologies that offer much more in the way of data to be used to support improved decision-making by physicians and clinicians. These technologies play a supporting function as they integrate with the EHR and don't often see the spotlight, but have a major impact on hospital efficiency and the improvement of patient care and safety.

Healthcare organizations that have implemented and are considering implementing MDI should consider certain strategic initiatives when planning, implementing and executing the healthcare IT investment. Whether your title is CEO, CFO, CIO, CMIO or CNO, it's important to understand how to maximize an MDI investment, while deriving greater value from existing investments like the EHR and having the ability to adapt to continuous changes facing the healthcare industry.

As anyone who has been in healthcare long enough knows, hospitals have an endless number of checklists, from infection prevention, to re-admission guidelines, to tips to reduce surgical complications. Not to add yet another list to an already overflowing pile of information, but included below is a brief checklist of suggested strategies hospital leaders can use as pillars to support their IT, clinical, biomedical and other teams as they consider device integration into the EHR.  

1. Have an enterprise vision. It's crucial to have an environment where device integration can scale across the entire hospital enterprise to meet the needs of multiple care environments, seamlessly and in alignment with the existing workflow to anticipate future demands. In order to develop and execute an enterprise vision, hospitals need to understand what to look for when implementing MDI, both from a clinical and IT perspective.

2. Choose your hardware.
If a hospital wants to connect multiple types of devices, hardware will be required. When evaluating solutions, keep in mind that while there are solutions that work on both PC and medical grade, dedicated connectivity hardware, one option may be better suited than the other for certain care areas. Some considerations include: What hardware platform will allow clinicians to improve their workflow? What works best for the existing environment and care area? What hardware platform provides hospitals with the opportunity to adjust more easily to future technology developments? For example, PC-based options are ideal for environments such as the OR where devices are fixed and clinicians are already working in the application. They may not, however, be ideal for critical care areas where there are 8-10 devices requiring association and where clinicians are not constantly in the application. Bottom line: there are a lot of things to consider when choosing the hardware solution that best meets the need.

3. Be dedicated to clinician workflow.
To increase EHR adoption, hospitals should prioritize technical usability and consider the impact tools will have on clinician workflow. An effective MDI solution allows members of the care team to easily enter data, retrieve information automatically and spend more time at the patient's bedside. It's been noted that MDI can save nurses up to three hours a day of administrative time. The idea is to reduce non-value steps, not add to them, so such considerations are key when evaluating technology solutions.

4. Encourage feedback. Collaboration is important among the IT staff, biomed, management, physicians and clinicians. It is important to remember that clinicians are the ones utilizing the technology and ultimately driving adoption — not the IT technicians — so IT should solicit feedback on all solutions being used by the care team to ensure they are improving rather than taking away from the day-to-day workflow. Biomed is managing devices, so their input is critical. Physicians are in need of the data collected as quickly as possible so how they access that information, where and when, will be essential. And of course, management needs to ensure that the technology meets their short- and long-term strategic goals within budget and hopefully with a proven ROI. Assembling a cross functional team as early as possible, with all stakeholders, and soliciting feedback before, during and after implementation will ensure long term success.

5. Measure success. In order to effectively measure the IT project's success, implementing a qualitative system is imperative. For MDI, you can measure how much nursing time is saved by moving from a manual documentation system to an automated system, pre and post implementation. If you're doing bedside validation and submission, you can also measure the lag time between collection and availability in the patient's record and how that reduced lag time improves patient care and outcomes. So, check with the vendor you are working with to see if they have any tools to assist you with your qualitative measurements. MDI implementation is a crucial aspect in this process and should be carefully applied and measured.

As hospitals strive for greater EHR adoption, the tools and the foresight into clinician workflow should remain a top priority for hospitals. Medical device connectivity provides hospitals and clinicians with the means to reduce charting time and improve patient care, safety and outcomes. With the proper process in place that looks at the larger picture, MDI implementation can dramatically change the healthcare environment. Check your hospital against this list, and see where your project stands.

Stuart Long is chief marketing and sales officer at Capsule Tech, Inc., with over 20 years of experience in both the clinical and business aspects of healthcare and information technology. Prior to Capsule, Stuart was vice president of global product marketing for Enterprise Imaging and Informatics at Philips Healthcare.

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