Refining data capture techniques to enhance efficiency, patient safety

Healthcare organizations face a suite of evolving threats, many of which are invisible. From the shadowy movements of cybercriminals who grow increasingly better at being everywhere and nowhere at the same time, to the microscopic and deadly bugs that haunt the most unsuspecting surfaces and grow more resistant to drug eradication each year, the "bad guys" are hard to pin down.

The following content is sponsored by Datalogic.

The good news is tools providers use to fend off trouble on various fronts are becoming more preemptive and preventive, not just reactive. Firms that create solutions to defend against a variety of hospital menaces understand the difficulty of operating an air-tight operation and how hospitals can best help protect patients. 

Datalogic designs nimble, multi-pronged solutions to meet the logistical concerns of clinical staff members, ease the care process for patients and mitigate network security and safety risks for provider organizations. With more than four decades of experience engineering innovative products to improve user experience in everything from airports to supermarkets, Datalogic views healthcare as the fastest growing vertical in IT worldwide and recognizes the unique challenges it faces keeping patients safe.

Data security
Patient data is being hacked, and even ransomed, at an alarming rate. Some of these breaches result in HIPAA fines costing millions of dollars, an unsustainable penalty for most hospitals. But simply shutting device users out of hospital networks isn't an option. Patients, their families and caregivers now expect to access Wi-Fi and use their devices during their stay or visit. The same goes for healthcare workers.  

Incorporating wireless devices into hospital networks is critical for staff and an expectation from patients and their families. Therefore, greater security measures are needed to mitigate risks that could jeopardize patient care and facility operations by allowing unknown personal devices to connect to hospital networks. Datalogic's STAR Cordless System, a wireless barcode scanning platform, is a secure alternative solution to running wireless devices on Bluetooth. Users on the STAR radio platform operate on a narrow bandwidth, which limits who can exchange sensitive information within hospital walls, while improving workflow and without affecting other devices.

Hospitals that don't consider network security and don't test their systems to identify vulnerabilities leave their data up for grabs. Some surveys suggest as many as two-thirds of hospitals have experienced breaches due to such vulnerabilities. As medical devices increasingly rely on networks, it is feasible that cybercriminals who seek out wireless weak points might accidentally tamper with a device that a patient relies on for care — a nightmare for patients, families and providers.  

Although hospitals might save money by having clinical staff attach a scanner to their personal phones for bedside point of care applications, they are embracing the use of a device that hasn't been designed with clinical use in mind, and doesn't have the necessary built-in precautionary measures to be safe and reliable in a clinical setting, says Gina Wilde, Datalogic's Sales Manager for Healthcare North America.

Smartphone sleds and are increasingly phased out of hospitals, traded up for tablets with companion scanners, a more secure and workflow-adaptable technology. Datalogic's scanners can be connected to any iOS or Android operating system tablet, which also provides a more advanced level of interface and engagement for patients and physicians. Whereas in the past a clinician might communicate important information about diagnosis, treatment and follow up care to patients verbally, off a chart, tablets have proven to better engage patients and offer an opportunity to review care plans together.

"Tablets are increasingly part of the communication between the caregiver and the patient," says Matt Jordan, healthcare account executive for Datalogic. "They can be used to help to explain symptoms, diagnoses and treatment options. It's a safer way to provide patients with more accurate information."

Beyond providing advantages in security and versatility, barcode scanning narrows some of the information sharing gaps that pain the industry. A nurse or physician using a barcode scanner attached to a network-protected device is able to precisely identify the correct medication, or upload information remotely to a patient's EHR without disturbing them. Closing or eliminating these gaps means faster, better patient care.

Streamlining data entry to speed patient care

Recent studies and surveys have produced some disappointing insights about the amount of time trained clinical staff spend at computer screens entering patient data into EHRs. The dynamic nature of care, in which a patient's treatment plan can change quickly, compounds this issue. Data entry traditionally happens hours after an amendment is made, when the physician, scribe or nurse has time to pause and enter batches of data. This can lead to discrepancies, where an EHR doesn't reflect the most up-to-date information.


Barcode scanners that automate capture data and sync with EHRs in real-time can eliminate this issue and mitigate the risk of a mistake. By enabling the creation of accurate, timely billing statements and prescription orders, barcode scanning can help error-proof some of the most inefficient processes providers struggle with. The technology, which is designed to scan silently to not wake sleeping patients, also mitigates risk of patient harm by matching the right medications to the right individuals based on barcodes.


"The matching capability is also helping deter medication fraud, as hospital and retail pharmacies adopt anti-counterfeit directives," Ms. Wilde says. "Certain pharmacy chains around the world have begun using Datalogic's handheld scanners to monitor prescription status and notify patients via secure messaging when their mediations are ready for pick up."


Infection control

An additional concern for medical devices carried from patient to patient and unit to unit is bacteria transfer that could lead to hospital-acquired infections. HAIs affect 1 in 25 patients on any given day and amount to hundreds of thousands of costly and potentially avoidable complications per year, according to the CDC. Datalogic developed scanners that account for this risk, specifically with hospitals in mind.


The demand for devices with embedded antimicrobial additives is growing along with the awareness of threats from pathogens like Clostridium difficile and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Hospitals are also increasingly penalized by CMS for a lack of coordinated effort to curb their infections rates. These elements have many providers taking a hard look at the way they clean and disinfect their IT hardware, especially those used by a variety of people, according to Ms. Wilde.


"When you ask hospitals about antimicrobial awareness, you get one of two answers," Ms. Wilde says. "They're either proud of their infection control initiatives that use anti-microbial hardware, or they have upcoming initiatives to look into incorporating these solutions. The bottom line: Antimicrobial IT hardware should be implemented in any environment and every vertical where the spread of bacteria is a concern." 


Datalogic's barcode scanners are designed with disinfectant-ready enclosures that withstand regular cleaning with stringent solutions, in addition to antimicrobial additives in the devices themselves that inhibit micro-organism growth.


Looking forward

In addition to offering creative solutions for known quantities in healthcare, staying on the cutting edge and predicting problems before they present themselves is key. For Datalogic, this year brings the release a number of products combating pain points in healthcare. These include solutions that maximize supply chain efficiency, improve clinician workflow and exceed infection control and patient safety standards.


One release is a RFID radio-frequency identification reader that will help staff organize and locate expensive hospital equipment that is easily lost in storage, including everything from respiratory monitors to beds and wheelchairs. Another is an ergonomic, wireless scanner — small enough to allow for storage around the neck or in a pocket — outfitted with disinfection-ready plastics and antimicrobial additives and easily paired with a laptop, tablet or phone. Lastly, the Datalogic will introduce the Axist, a handheld computer with full-touch HD display for more a more efficient data capture experience.


Datalogic is continuing to expand on what has been its core focus since its founding: To develop technology that accurately inspects, tracks and collects data. For healthcare, that results in more secure networks, a happier clinical staff, cleaner environments and safer patients.

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