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October 2007 - Volume 4 - Issue 4


IT Challenge for Hospitals

Does your hospital have a global strategy for IT? Do you have a clear vision for IT that goes beyond departmental needs and overcomes the silo mentality? Unfortunately, IT has earned itself a bad name in many hospitals, "Functionality is not adequate, users do not like it, there is too much patch work" are just a few of the complaints Medical Records Institute hears from physicians and hospital staff. The comment voiced most often is "IT is just making life difficult. Computer entry is slow and takes too much time. Systems are cumbersome and not user friendly. There is not sufficient consideration given to our struggle to get information into the computer."

It doesn’t have to be that way. IT can bring higher efficiency, better quality of care, reduced medical errors, improved physician relations, and happier staff. Three principles should guide any consideration to develop short-term and long-term strategies for IT in your hospital. First, understand the current shortcomings of your IT systems. Second, identify priorities for IT. Is the link to physician practices a priority, or is higher patient satisfaction more important? Or, should the reduction of medical errors and creation of knowledge bases come first? How will IT determine the position your hospital will have several years from now in your region? Both principles are important but can only be successfully implemented if sufficient attention is given to the third principle. And that is the way your physicians and staff are interfacing with the computer. If a physician has to log in several times because different departmental systems require new log-ins with different passwords, consider this a failure that needs to be corrected. In other words, consider the way your users handle information a long neglected priority. This problem usually applies to all departments. Addressing these issues with a hospital-wide approach will bring great benefits.

It is important to get a clear handle on information capture, that is, how information is documented through handwriting, dictation, touch-screen technology, keyboard or stylus entry, or other methods. Analyze what it costs and determine how user friendly and system friendly such information capture methods are. Start with transcription. Do you know how much transcription and related costs amount to for your hospital per year? How many problems result from turn-around time or quality issues? What legal liability your hospital has, perhaps unknowingly, assumed due to missing signatures, inappropriate documentation practices, or inappropriate use of devices? These neglected issues are not only causing legal risks, compliance problems, and inefficiencies. They are also affecting the bottom line. Some hospitals are slowly reducing transcription and replacing it with combinations of other input methods. They are reporting savings of up to $4 million per year.

Similarly important is the need to create a strategy for mobile computing devices such as PDAs, laptops, UMCDs, and others that allow point-of-care documentation. Facilities that have established a platform to accommodate different devices and systems are ahead of the game. The development of a platform for different mobile devices is one of the key steps toward implementing a successful electronic medical record (EMR) system. This much-touted concept doesn’t create much excitement.

The vision of EMRs has been around for too long without any evidence that substantial progress is being made. CIOs tell us that often departmental and internal priorities come first. And at the end of the day, there is not much left in energy or resources to move further toward an electronic medical record system. But what could be the savings and benefits of a paperless EMR system for your hospital? Just small steps toward this goal can bring rewards worth millions of dollars.

At the upcoming National Conference on Health Information Capture in Fort Lauderdale, some hospitals will be reporting their progress and their experiences in implementing improved health information capture policies. Consider sending a team to study these issues.

C. Peter Waegemann is CEO of Medical Records Institute. Medical Records Institute has been a leader in this field for years. Its National Conference on Health Information Capture will be held November 4-5, 2007 in Fort Lauderdale FL. It is the only conference that focuses on all major issues of information capture. For more information, visit the web at or call (617) 964 3923 ext. 203.
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