Friday, November 6, 2009

Patient Association

Sphere3 has a goal and focus to increase caregiver satisfaction by utilizing technology to automate workflow. The key is we don’t want to make life MORE complex by adding unnecessary technology nor do we want the hospital to spend additional dollars if existing technologies can be leveraged to increase functionality.

I had an interesting conversation with Brian McAlpine of Capsuletech ( about patient association. Capsule is highly focused on the documentation, and the ease of delivery of information.

I encourage you all to join in the conversation to increase the overall knowledge in the industry. This is my perspective - which is meant to be very elementary in it's approach.

Caregivers are challenged to manage information – whether it’s an alert to their wireless, a piece of data that needs to be documented, or request that is made or received. Adding technology to “make things better” will sometimes add steps as it requires several steps to interact with the new technology.

Traditionally, in alert automation software, the information is linked to a room number. The association to a patient is generally made by the integration to the admitting system (sometimes this is done manually) – so connection is only made by linkage to room number. The key is that the alerting device must be “tethered” (aka plugged in) to the patient room to be linked to the room number and sent to the appropriate caregiver, or the hospital must purchase additional software packages which in turn increases the number of "adapters" that must be purchased for integration software. Adding to the difficulty, new devices are wireless and can float to any room so a nurse must interact with the piece of equipment to identify it's location.

So, the question becomes will it become more necessary for alert automation to associate with the Patient as opposed to simply the room? Potentially, it could be easier to associate to the patient. This could increase the flexibility for integrating that information to medical record for multiple devices such as mobile telemetry, vents, pumps, etc. It will also blow away the current assignment process for integration software, nurse call, and other vendors. (Yes, I recognize there will be disagreement on this one.)

The Nurse Call information is the most popular item to automate directly to wireless mainly because of its highly visible patient satisfaction and caregiver satisfaction influences. The telemetry is a close second, while the loss of the waveform has been challenging to most sites, it’s still very necessary to have that alert at the “hip”. While it’s not highly critical to associate the patients name or identifier to a wireless device for nurse call, documenting the interaction can be critical if an issue arises.

Most of the companies focused on alert automation do not consider the charting piece because it’s “out of their scope” but hospitals will at some point (if not already) be tasked to correlate that information. If you read Brian McAlpines Blog you will read more about patient association, devices and documentation.

Products such as Capsuletech offer a vendor neutral integration point in the patient room. Their product can collect data from devices and correlate it with patient information, all of which can be confirmed at the bedside either manually or automatically.