The thought of having to go to a hospital, let alone a public one, would have many people opting to stay home as long as possible until their ailment turns into an emergency. In some ways, we face this reality here. There is a plethora of complaints – the waiting time is too long, customer service is not up to par, doctors are not available, dockets cannot be found, difficulty in finding beds or the tier system for triaging may not be efficient or effective enough.
The health technology industry has taken these issues and tailored solutions towards improving or completely removing the need for them. They have shown that customer complaints are not necessarily bad for business; they enable solutions that result in improvements in business processes that benefit clients and owners even beyond their initial expectation. In this way, health technology has improved the management of the entire health ecosystem and has been particularly useful to hospitals aiming to improve efficiency of service, ease of diagnosis and seamless amalgamation of their various functions.
Emergency room care has been a focus of this process. These departments are generally fast moving and can be quite stressful for all involved. Digitisation can bring relief, in many ways, to how they function. The University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) has already implemented its emergency room module of the Health Information Management System (HIMS) and is already seeing benefits in a number of areas.
IMPROVED SPEED IN REGISTRATION & ASSESSMENT
The registration component of the software allows triaging officers to input registration information or quickly find a patient in the system if they were previously registered. Once a patient is registered he/she would get a number that is unique to them and used for every future encounter. The patient’s history is readily available and a doctor, if needed, can be quickly identified and assigned. If the patient’s status is not emergency, then an appointment can be made for another time for one of the clinics.
We know that every hospital has a finite number of beds, and with the increasing incidence of non-communicable diseases and traffic accidents, we tend to find that hospital bed occupancy rates remain high throughout the year. Notwithstanding, the demand for beds has always been a sticking point. While the technology cannot produce beds, it gives a real-time photographic layout of available beds for the doctor to easily access and assign.
ELECTRONIC HEALTH RECORDS
In a fast-paced environment like an ER, electronic health records (EHR) allow for quick and easy access to a patient’s complete history. The good thing about this is that there is the possibility of linkages within public and private healthcare institutions, so the patients’ documents would be holistic and complete with every healthcare encounter they have ever had. This has not happened yet, but can easily be done with the requisite permissions.
DRUG ORDER STRAIGHT TO PHARMACY
The HIMS has the ability to order drugs and check the drug inventory while sending the prescriptions to the pharmacy, all in real time. Inpatients’ pharmaceutical requirements can be satisfied before they are taken to a ward from the ER. This also helps with putting together the inputs for preparation for surgery if required.
VIRTUAL ASSESSMENT THROUGH TELEMEDICINE
Though not yet available at the UHWI, telemedicine can facilitate virtual assessment to hasten triaging and deal with non-emergency cases. This will significantly alleviate the stress on the staff on the ground and improve patient satisfaction and flow. The good thing is that access to the EHR is available and these encounters can also be added to the patient’s history.
PATIENT TAGGING WITH BARCODE SCANNING CAPABILITY
I don’t believe we have yet started using bar-coded wristbands, that when scanned, provide information from the patient’s EHR and any specific notes from the doctor. Some hospitals in the United States widely use this for patients who are to undergo surgery. This is useful all around, but particularly to keep track of unidentified patients taken to the ER.
Health technology has improved many hospital functions, and patient and worker satisfaction will continue to get better. Several efficiencies will be achieved and medical errors will be significantly reduced, especially in a fast-moving ER setting.
Doug Halsall is chairman and CEO, Advanced Integrated Systems. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published: Sunday | December 15, 2019 | 12:21 AM Doug Halsall/Contributor