Hospitals Use Tablets as Extension of EHRs
Some leading hospitals are increasingly turning to tablets -- iPads and iPad-like devices -- as a way to improve access to patient health records for providers walking the hospital halls. We here at Padholdr have just what the Dr order to hold those tablet in place while you attend to your patients needs.
Such devices are seen as a way to work around clunky desktops and make greater use of an electronic medical record's (EMR) capabilities.
"Tablets, in our experience, are very effective if you need not the entire EMR, but a slice of information," Will Morris, MD, associate chief medical information officer at the Cleveland Clinic, told MedPage Today.
The hospital is piloting the use of tablets with a few sectors of its workforce, such as its rapid response teams. Clinicians can look up patient information on their way to a patient who is crashing and better know how to treat the patient when they arrive at their room.
Other hospital staff use them on rounds; data entered is synced with the hospital's full EMR.
"The more we can assist our providers in being more efficient, the better the value proposition," Morris said.
Hospitals are increasingly turning to mobile devices as a cost-effective extension of their EMRs, making them more usable and friendly, David Collins, senior director of mHIMSS, the mobile wing of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), in Chicago, said.
"You spend millions of dollars for EHR [electronic health record] implementation," Collins told MedPage Today in a phone interview. "But if you can spend $300 on a tablet and issue these to providers so they're more mobile, it's really a minimal cost for the payoff."
One of the many complaints around EHRs is that they cause clinicians to divert their attention from patients and make less eye contact. But mobile devices like tablets are seen as a way to make EHRs more user-friendly. A recent HIMSS white paper outlined various ways in which hospitals and other clinics are using devices to make EHRs easier to use.
The University of Chicago Medicine says it was the first hospital to work with tablets on a large scale when, in November 2010, it supplied them to all 115 internal medicine residents. After a year, three-quarters of residents reported that the tablets allowed them to finish tasks quicker and spend more time on direct patient care.
An analysis also found that residents finished more patient orders before 7 a.m. rounds and more orders before handing off duties and leaving the hospital by 1 p.m.
Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., has provided iPads to its internal medicine residents to, among other things, make patient records more accessible and order tests more easily while on rounds and at the patients' bedside.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pennsylvania is testing the use of Windows tablets with its cardiologists. Using specially developed software, physicians can jump between different mobile applications without having to re-enter patient information to do their work.
"It vastly streamlines the workflow for our clinicians and allows them to spend less time navigating technology and more time caring for patients," spokesperson Wendy Zellner toldMedPage Today. "We expect it to be rolled out for wider use later this year."
The trend of mobile devices is fairly new and there isn't a whole lot of clinical outcomes data or user satisfaction surveys, Collins said. "I think mobile is coming to see its day, but it's still a relatively new area for health IT [information technology]," he said.
At the Cleveland Clinic, officials don't have data on quality improvement just yet, but Morris said they have seen an improvement in how long it takes nurses to enter vital signs.
"It's not going to be the tablet that transforms practice," he said. "It's going to be 'How do you use the data coming out of your EMR, applied with clinical rules, to empower the clinical practice?' "
As health reform forces hospitals and other providers to become more accountable for the care they provide, tablets may help doctors zero in and focus on high-risk patients, according to Morris.
"For smaller healthcare systems, I think tablets are a wonderful way for them to capitalize on their best assets, which are the people who are employed there, and allow them to work more efficiently," Morris said.
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