Hospitals must look ahead to get the most out of their investments in technology. Administrators may compare the sticker price of new IT system packages, but cost considerations should include ease of implementation, time needed for staff training, interface with existing systems, data security, and use of light weight coding that does not become cumbersome to the larger system .
Technology in the hospital setting is no longer just a chip that makes an automatic blood pressure cuff cycle at programmed intervals. Software programs control data collection, and storage, in all aspects of patient care; from patient admission physicals, to creating the bill. Technology is a line item on the modern hospital budget, and it's not going away.
Traditionally, Hospital Information Technology, and Health IT in general, has made use of many parallel systems with overlapping parts. Points of data entry that developed to store information on patients developed from multiple arenas before computer networking protocols allowed electronic file transfers between machines. Laboratory testing, MARs, (Medication Administration Records), and other sources of electronically stored data, progressed into computerized Kardexes, Nursing Care Plans, physician dictated Operative Reports, and Nursing Intervention checklists, to name a few.
Good IT infrastructure pays for itself. The hidden cost of maintaining outdated systems include more than random call tickets for tech support. Frequent rebooting of buggy software may cause increased wait times for patients and staff alike. Lack of reliable interfaces between systems degrades interdepartmental communication. Unavailable lab results may cause tests to be repeated. Staff frustration and hostility can result from having to work with substandard equipment. The patient who observes system inefficiencies may loose confidence.
Doctors, nurses, and other clinicians rely on Hospital Information Systems to meet patient needs.
Making health care data accessible to providers in a fluid manner translates into more efficient work flow at the bedside. Limiting work flow barriers in the hospital also improves patient outcomes.
Focus on buying smart. Cheap is not always less expensive. Hospitals must look ahead to get the most out of their investments in technology and data management.
Plan and implement your best Hospital IT strategy.
- Survey staff about problem IT areas
- Set technology specific goals
- Create a Technology Panel that includes clinician end users, biomedical engineering, faculty, and administrators
- Invite a variety of vendors to present, or "pitch" their products to the Technology Panel
- Prepare questions and take notes
Short term and long term IT considerations.
- How will unit work flow improve?
- How much training will staff require?
- Where else is the system in place, how is it working?
- Is free tech support available, for how long?
- Does this system interface well with hardware and software already in use?
- Are patient rights to privacy securely protected?
- Can electronic records be transferred securely and efficiently?
- Can customized data sets be built as needed by hospital IT administrators?
- How much down time is needed to maintain the system?
- Does this company rank high for customer service?
Get your team on board. Develop realistic goals for Information Technology, take thirty minutes to brainstorm at a staff meeting. List each piece of equipment and every charting system, likes and dislikes, problem areas. Develop questions for vendors. Invite interested parties, get your "end users" invested in the process. Invest in technology that serves people. Decrease the amount of human resources spent serving the technology, and it will be embraced by Nurses, Physicians, and other clinicians that are the ultimate end users.