Technology Advances in Healthcare

Technology Advances in Healthcare

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Technology and progress go hand in hand! Earlier this month a rover, called Curiosity, landed on Mars. This first of its kind event made headlines and provided the world with images within two minutes of its landing, this magnificent event marks the beginning of a new era in technology and science. As we read and hear about this form of technology we embrace it and look forward to more but as soon as Facebook makes a change to its format we complain in hopes that the change will be reverted... until we finally get accustomed to it and eventually see the benefits. When technology interferes with our daily routines we are often quick to dismiss it as a waste of time. At times we tend to ignore the benefits and push it away for as long as possible, to avoid having to change our ways. In healthcare we have finally reached that “as long as possible” stage.


In 2010 the department of Health and Human Services (HHS) developed and defined Meaningful Use and the standards hospitals and physicians would be required to meet in order to qualify for incentives. To me giving hospitals incentives to update and improve their systems seemed like a great opportunity to improve healthcare, but I still hear doctors, nurses and staff complain that it is either not relevant to their practice or too much work. Has Meaningful Use really helped the healthcare industry? Are the benefits worth the effort, time and money spent to implement an Electronic Health System (EHS)? And ultimately is an EHR improving the care we provide to patients?


As hospitals complete the first stage of Meaningful Use we can take a look back at their progress and see the payoff. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) created a program, called Stories of Success. Stories of Success compiles case studies that focus on how organizations use health IT to improve patient care, the main focus of Meaningful Use. Here are a couple of case studies from the Stories of Success program showing the obstacles the hospitals had to overcome to solve their pain and how health IT not only helped but exceeded their expectations in the outcome.


Case Study #1:  Community Health Network (CHN), Indiana, utilized Medication Reconciliation program to improve care. Their old system had different parts that did not talk to each other which made it very difficult to know what medications the patient was on. The lack of information to the physician, nurse and pharmacist made it very easy to miss important information about current and past medications for the patient, leading to errors in prescriptions. CHN  worked with a vendor to implement a clinical integration platform specifically tailored to their needs which allowed the staff to pull all pertinent medication information for the patient from all of their different systems. With the medication records at hand at the time of discharge the nurse or pharmacist is presented with a better picture, avoiding possible conflicts between medications. After the implementation the staff was trained and “... immediately felt a positive impact in their daily workflow and time spent and accuracy of documenting medications.” The newly implemented systems monitoring and tracking feature made it easy to continue following their compliance over a brief period of time to assure the success as mandated by the Federal Meaningful Use guidelines.


Case Study #2:  Rochester General Health System (RGHS), Rochester, New York implemented electronic prescribing. The RGHS had a difficulty with tracking, renewing, issuing and duplicate requests of patient prescriptions. RGHS implemented e-Prescribing, resulting in a decrease in time charts spent out from previously days to hours, “sometimes minutes”. In most cases, Prescription renewals went from a week to process to under 24 hours. Patient complaints about prescriptions decreased by 50% and phone calls by 80% freeing up the staff’s availability to work on other tasks. Although the staff faced challenges, mainly in training, the overall outcome of the transition was positive. According to the staff, “E-Prescribing is a cost-effective intervention that can provide significant efficiency benefits within 6 months.” RGHS also qualified for Meaningful Use which allowed them to get reimbursed for part of their initial investment.


Looking back at the information above I go back to my original questions: has Meaningful Use really helped the healthcare industry? Are the benefits worth the effort, time and money spent to implement an EHS? And ultimately is an EHR improving the care we provide to patients? The answer is a loud and clear, YES! With the next stage of Meaningful Use quickly approaching we can only expect continued improvement in our healthcare system.


If you would like to read more about these case studies please visit the HIMSS Stories of Success website.


~ Zoraida Lara