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How Mobile Computer Carts Reduce Errors and Increase Efficiency

Posted on February 2, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Andy Lurie, Director of Marketing and Partner Relations at Add On Data.

Mobile computing carts have been a mainstay in the hospital environment since the electronic medical records (EMR) mandate took effect in the United States. To show meaningful use of electronic health records in the healthcare environment, facilities across the nation have adopted mobile computing carts as the primary means of addressing EMR at the point-of-care. Mobile carts offer better ergonomics and productivity than tablets or mobile devices.

Mobile computer carts aren’t just a means of satisfying the new meaningful use requirements for EMR however, they’re becoming vital aspects of workflow optimization and error reduction strategies at healthcare facilities everywhere. Hospitals that initially overlooked the practical benefits of satisfying the EMR mandate are now benefiting from fewer recording errors in patient records, more accurate medication administration, and enhanced worker productivity. Keep reading to find out how!

Mobile Computer Carts Help Care Providers Get More Done

It’s easy to imagine how the introduction of mobile workstations to the healthcare environment has enhanced productivity, especially for the nurses and physicians that use this equipment daily. Here’s what a workflow for patient visits might have looked like before the introduction of mobile workstations:

  1. The nurse visits the patient’s room.
  2. The nurse interviews the patient and conducts any relevant assessments (blood pressure, vitals, etc.)
  3. The nurse visits the medication/equipment room to get materials needed by the patient.
  4. The nurse returns to the patient and administers treatments.
  5. The nurse returns to the stationary workstation located at the nurse’s station.
  6. The nurse records the patient’s condition and documents the treatment provided.
  7. The nurse is ready to visit a new patient.

With mobile computer carts, nurses can reduce many of the walking steps in this process. Basic medical supplies and medications can be stored securely in the drawers of a mobile computing cart, reducing the need for trips to supply rooms. The nurse can also update patient records at the bedside, eliminating the need to repeatedly return to a stationary workstation throughout their shift. A 10-20% reduction in the time taken for a patient visit represents massive productivity gains for an organization.

Mobile Computer Carts Reduce Errors in EMR Recording

EMR recording errors are an insidious and completely unnecessary cause of adverse outcomes for the patient, but they’re a sad reality of an inefficient workflow that separates the processes of patient care from the process of documentation.

We all trust our healthcare providers to provide attentive and conscientious care for each patient, but it’s easy to imagine how documentation errors can occur. Nurses who routine to a stationary workstation between patient visits may sometimes find that computer occupied, meaning they have to wait before documenting the most recent interaction. Sometimes nurses encounter distractions on their way to document a patient interaction – it could be a medical emergency, an urgent request from another staff member, a disruptive patient or visitor, or anything else.

Nurses and physicians need to be accountable for accurately documenting every interaction they have with patients, and this is best achieved with mobile computer carts. Mobile carts ensure the presence of an available workstation at the point of care, ensuring that patient care is documented as it happens and without delay. This reduces data entry errors and enhances patient safety.

Mobile Computer Carts Help Ensure Secure and Accurate Medicine Administration

Mobile computer carts have been used effectively to ensure the security, accuracy, and timeliness of medication administration in hospitals. Carts can be customized with secure drawers for holding medication, as well as bar-code scanners that nurses use to correctly identify patients and match them with the appropriate medications. The combination of medication verification software and organized storage of patient medications virtually eliminates the possibility of patient medication errors.

A study that assessed adverse drug events (ADEs) found that each hospital experiences a medication error every 22.7 hours and every 19.73 admissions. Miscommunication and “Human Factors” have been identified as leading factors contributing to these mistakes, along with similar labeling on medications and patient name confusion. Using bar-code scanners and software to match patients with their proper medications reduces these errors and ultimately saves lives by addressing sources of error that are inherent to the manual administration of medicines in the hospital setting.

Conclusion

While the implementation of mobile computer carts in the healthcare environment is important for satisfying the EMR mandate, hospitals should not overlook the real opportunities to generate and capitalize on the other benefits of mobile carts. Effective usage of mobile computing carts reduces errors and increases hospital efficiency, helping facilities reduce their costs and improve patient safety and health outcomes.

Will TouphPads Finally Replace Computers on Wheels (COWS)?

Posted on March 17, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I know that everyone hates the term COWS (Computer on Wheels). Feel free to call them some other variation, but we all know what we’re talking about (just like if you say EHR or EMR). Either way, they’re a mainstay of so many hospitals and they are some of the most beloved and hated devices by those who use them.

They love having everything available to them. They hate pushing, pulling, cajoling around the unit. It’s a true love-hate relationship for so many.

Many have called for the demise of COWS for a long time and most point to mobile devices as their obvious replacement. However, those that realize how many non-computer peripherals are attached and used on a COW know that the COW is still going to be a mainstay in many organizations for years to come.

I was recently talking with the people at Panasonic about their new ToughPad Tablets(pictured below).
Panasonic-ToughpadFZM1-1

There’s a whole lot to like about the Panasonic ToughPad tablets. At the event I saw the tablets, I literally saw a journalist from India throw it to the ground and then step on it. To the Panasonic reps delight, he picked it up and the tablet was still ticking with no issues. Pretty amazing demo of the toughness of the device. I’m sure healthcare would test it similarly. I’ve also written previously about the iPad Lifecycle versus Other Tablets so I won’t cover those benefits of the Windows 8 O/S on the ToughPad. However, they are a really important consideration.

Instead, I was intrigued by the idea that the ToughPad could essentially be the brain of the COW. So, you could plug it into the COW whenever needed, but if you needed the mobility of the tablet you could use it that way as well.

The reason this was never done before is that the Windows 8 tablets never had enough processing power, RAM, etc to handle the health IT applications that hospitals wanted to place on them (We’ll save the discussion of processor and memory hungry health IT applications for a future post). The ToughPad could change that since they’ve finally put enough into the device to make this a possibility.

I’ll be interested to hear from others working on this problem. Does this seem like a reasonable alternative? Will the ToughPad just get left in the COW and never be taken out? If so, then you’re at least making the COW lighter, but it might not be worth the added expense. Unless you ask the nurse after a long day pushing around a COW.

I don’t see the tablet being a replacement for that many COW, but I could see this interesting tweak in the computer on wheels implementation.

A Shocking Journey: Health Data Reaches EMR Via Writing On Hand

Posted on February 1, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Nurses have one of the toughest jobs in the world.  As for me, I doubt I could do what they do for 30 minutes, much less an entire shift.

And of course, it doesn’t help that half the hospital world doesn’t appreciate them particularly, especially at salary review time. So please rest assured that the following is not a needless slam on the nursing world.

That being said, what I saw tonight in a Maryland hospital ED was appalling. Either the nurse in question was way, way out of line, or someone in IT should have their head examined.

As is often the case when you’re parenting young children, I end up bringing one of them into the ED now and then. (Being a child is a dangerous lifestyle, especially when you’re a venturesome, intelligent kid!) And tonight was one of those times.

The ED was humming, with patients practically stacked in the hallways awaiting triage.  Not surprisingly, nurses were jumping like the proverbial longtailed cat.  But when my child and I were called back, I was still shocked by what I saw.

When the triage nurse asked my kid to step on the scale, she wrote the result on her hand. Then she measured his height. She recorded that on her palm, as well.  As she took his blood pressure, pulse ox and temperature, she transferred the data from her palm to a yellow sticky, and then into the EMR.

In my view, transferring data via sneakernet — heck, palmnet — is something that should never happen if you want accurate data in your EMR.  So why, for heaven’s sake, hasn’t IT provided overworked nurses like ours with a COW or wall-mounted terminal or tablet they can use to capture data when away from the triage desk?  Otherwise, given the pace at which nurses work, what does CIO think will happen?

While I’m not happy with the way nurse X handled things, I imagine she’s just adapting to an impossible situation. What’s more, I’m betting that her system is no more or less accurate than manual data entry if she’s very careful with what she does.

But ultimately, hospitals simply can’t allow this kind of thing to happen. Imagine the liability it would face if careless data transfer led to a needless error in care?  The very thought makes me cringe.

The moral of the story, as I see it, is that point of care devices are an absolute necessity these days, not a “nice to have” investment. Sure, picking among various options is a trying exercise, and IT leaders may have to try out a few form factors before they find solutions that work. But let’s not kid ourselves: it’s something that has to happen.

What’s the point of investing a year’s revenue in an EMR if your frontline nurses are fudging data entry?