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Hospital Information Software: Bang for the Buck
Hospitals must look ahead to get the most out of their technology investments. Administrators can compare the sticker price of new IT system packages, but cost considerations should include ease of implementation, time required to train staff, interface with existing systems, data security, and use of lightweight coding that does not become cumbersome for the larger system .
Technology in the hospital setting is no longer just a chip that automatically cycles blood pressure cuffs at programmed intervals. Software programs control data collection and storage in all aspects of patient care; from patient admission physicists, to bill creation. Technology is a budget item in the modern hospital budget and it’s not going away.
Traditionally, hospital information technology and healthcare IT in general have made use of many parallel systems with overlapping parts. Data entry points developed to store patient information developed from multiple arenas before computer networking protocols allowed for the electronic transfer of files between machines. Laboratory tests, MARs, (Medication Administration Records), and other electronically archived data sources, have progressed into computerized Kardexes, Nursing Care Plans, Physician-dictated Operational Reports, and Nursing Intervention Checklists, to name a few.
A good IT infrastructure pays for itself. The hidden cost of maintaining outdated systems includes more than random call tickets for technical support. Frequent restarting of faulty software can lead to increased wait times for both patients and staff. The lack of reliable interfaces between systems degrades interdepartmental communication. Unavailable lab results may cause retesting. Staff frustration and hostility can arise from having to work with substandard equipment. The patient who observes inefficiencies in the system may lose confidence.
Doctors, nurses, and other physicians rely on hospital information systems to meet patient needs.
Making health data accessible to caregivers in a fluid way results in a more efficient workflow at the bedside. Limiting workflow barriers in the hospital also improves patient outcomes.
Focus on buying smart. Cheap isn’t always cheaper. Hospitals must look ahead to get the most out of their investments in technology and data management.
Plan and implement your best hospital IT strategy.
- Investigate staff about IT problem areas
- Set specific goals for the technology
- Create a technology panel that includes clinical end users, biomedical engineers, educators, and administrators
- Invite a variety of vendors to submit or “submit” their products to the Technology Panel
- Prepare questions and take notes
Short- and long-term IT considerations.
- How will the unit’s workflow improve?
- How much training will the staff require?
- Where else is the system, how does it work?
- Is free technical support available, for how long?
- Does this system interface well with existing hardware and software?
- Are patients’ rights to privacy securely protected?
- Can electronic records be transferred safely and efficiently?
- Can hospital IT administrators create custom datasets as needed?
- How much downtime is required to maintain the system?
- Does this company rank high for customer service?
Get your team involved. Develop realistic goals for information technology, take thirty minutes to brainstorm in a staff meeting. List every piece of equipment and every charting system, likes and dislikes, problem areas. Develop questions for suppliers. Invite interested parties, involve your “end users” in the process. Invest in technology at the service of people. Decrease the amount of human resources spent in service of the technology and it will be welcomed by nurses, doctors and other physicians who are the ultimate end users.
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