Archive for the ‘electronic medical records’ Category

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Never Too Late: One Family Practice’s Shift to EHRs after 50 Years of Paper

April 16, 2015

Editor’s note: We hear a lot about the stress and lack of time for direct patient care that nurses (and physicians) have experienced with the movement to EMRs or EHRs. We’re in a transitional period, and in some instances the use and design of these systems has a long ways to go. But here’s a story with a positive slant, written by someone who might easily have responded very differently, given the circumstances. Change is inevitable; how we react to it throughout our lives, less so. 

By Marilyn Kiesling Howard, ARNP

Niklas Bildhauer/ Wikimedia Commons

Niklas Bildhauer/ Wikimedia Commons

I am a nurse practitioner and my husband of 60 years is a family practitioner. We still work full time in our Gulf Breeze, Florida, practice. About five years ago, we first learned that our paper records were becoming archaic and that Medicare was planning to penalize providers who didn’t switch to the use of electronic health records (EHRs) by a certain date.

It was terrible news—we had 50 years of work in the paper chart genre, and were unsure about how to make the transition. Some who were in our position took the pending requirements as an opportunity to retire, but we weren’t ready for that.

Embracing a predigital innovation. In the 1960s, we started a small family practice in Indiana. As we requested our patients’ records from the files of their most recent physicians, it was not unusual to receive an index card that had the date neatly stamped on the left edge, with a handwritten note on the same line. (Needless to say, we’d already gone upscale, with a folder for each patient and a piece of white note paper.)

We quickly found that the medical record was our link to the prospective health of our patients, so we explored how we might make our records more useful. Joe read about a clinic in Bangor, Maine, where physicians were implementing the problem-oriented medical record (POMR) developed by Dr. Larry Weed, so we flew there to learn about this innovation. Dr. Bjorn and Dr. Cross were still developing their application of the model; their favorite medical secretary was a ‘bored bright housewife,’ and the entire clinic had an aura of excitement and discovery.

When we returned home, we quickly converted our folders to a proper chart with the ‘problem list’ fastened on the left and the progress notes on the right, using the new methodology. As we treated our new patients, we dutifully produced the ‘subjective, objective, assessment, and plan’ (SOAP) model we’d also imported from Maine.

This method sufficed for all the years between the first enlightenment and our leap in May 2011 into the world of pixels. It’s a challenge to get up and running with an EHR system. It was as if we were starting a new office with 2,000 patients to enroll. We had to had to translate and enter all of their old information into the new charting system. Two of our staff did not have computer knowledge and could not type. We went to half production, and our lost revenue was felt for months afterwards. (‘Meaningful use’ rules reimbursed us for about one-half of what the transition cost us.)

We’d decided on a cloud-based system because it was easy to access and the records would be safely stored on a server in Maine, an extra plus due to our propensity for hurricanes in the Florida Panhandle. The program was extremely user friendly. Given our level of expertise, this was a necessity. We took lessons online; the training included a live operator who was willing to stay on the line until the information was understood and applied. The company that runs the system keeps us compliant with meaningful use requirements and lets us know of impending changes.

We have, since we started using it at our clinic, found the EHR so far superior to our handwritten method that it would be impossible for us to return to the scribbled messes, as we see our old charts now. We still refer to them to garner important items such as consults, colonoscopies, surgeries, etc. Those reports are then neatly bar-coded into the EHR. It is no longer necessary to weed, retire, or store the charts. We did not abstract the old charts, simply moved important reports from them. We keep them in our office for quick historical reference. Read the rest of this entry ?

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ECRI’s Top 10 Patient Safety Concerns for 2014

June 20, 2014
safety

Photo © One Way Stock.

For the past few years, we’ve highlighted the ECRI Institute’s annual Top 10 Health Technology Hazards report, which provides an overview of new and old technology hazards for health care facilities to keep in mind (read this year’s post here).

Now ECRI has released a new report entitled “Top 10 Patient Safety Concerns for Healthcare Organizations.” The goal of the list, according to ECRI, is to “give healthcare organizations a gauge to check their track record in patient safety.” The list, which will be published on an annual basis, draws upon more than 300,000 patient safety events, custom research requests, and root-cause analyses submitted to the institute’s federally designated patient safety organization (PSO) for assessment. A selection from the top 10 can be found below.

Poor care coordination with a patient’s next level of care

The concern: Gaps in communication about patient care—for example, between hospital and provider, among providers, and between long-term care settings and hospitals—have been reported to ECRI’s PSO. And while it is best practice for hospitals to send a patient’s discharge information to all of a patient’s providers, this doesn’t always happen.

Some suggestions: On reason information doesn’t get passed on, according to the report, is that staff aren’t always able to identify a patient’s other providers. One strategy suggested by the report is for practices to provide current contact information, such as phone and fax numbers, on their Web sites. Electronic health records can facilitate care communication among providers, but the report stresses that organizations must establish procedures that address accessing, reviewing, and acting on the findings in those records.

Failure to adequately manage behavioral health patients in acute care settings

The concern: Despite the fact that patients’ mental health needs must be addressed in addition to their clinical needs when presenting in an acute care setting or ED, events reported to ECRI’s PSO suggest this isn’t always the case. Of particular concern is the incidence of patient violence in these settings. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Health Technology Hazards: ECRI’s Top 10 for 2014

January 15, 2014
hazard/jasleen kaur, via Flickr

hazard/jasleen kaur, via Flickr

It’s that time of year again—the ECRI Institute has released its Top 10 Health Technology Hazards for 2014 report, and with it come new (and old) hazards to keep in mind.

Alarm hazards still posed the greatest risk, topping the list at number one for the third year running. Other repeat hazards included medication administration errors while using smart pumps (in at number two), inadequate reprocessing of endoscopic devices and surgical instruments (number six), and, at number eight, risks to pediatric patients associated with technologies that may have been designed for use in adults (such as radiology, oxygen concentrators, computerized provider order–entry systems, and electronic medical records). For an overview on these, see our posts from 2012 and 2013.

And here’s a snapshot of new hazards that made the cut, along with some of the report’s suggestions on how to prevent them.

Radiation exposures in pediatric patients (#3)

The risk: Although computed tomography (CT) scans are valuable diagnostic tools, they are not without risk, and children, who are more sensitive to the effects of radiation than adults, are more susceptible to its potential negative effects. According to the report, new empirical studies suggest that “diagnostic imaging at a young age can increase a person’s risk of cancer later in life.”

Some suggestions: The report suggests that health care providers take the following actions: use safer diagnostic options, when possible, such as X-rays, MRIs, or ultrasounds; avoid repeat scanning; and use a dose that is “as low as reasonably achievable.”

Occupational radiation hazards in hybrid ORs (#5)

The risk: Hybrid ORs, which bring advanced imaging capabilities into the surgical environment, are a growing trend. However, with these angiography systems comes exposure to radiation—a risk to both patients and OR staff.

Some suggestions: According to the report, a radiation protection program is a must. The program should include training for staff, who may not have experience with imaging technology; the use of shielding with lead aprons or other lead barriers; and monitoring of radiation levels. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Health Technology Hazards: ECRI’s Top 10 for 2013

January 4, 2013
hazard/jasleen kaur, via Flickr

hazard/jasleen kaur, via Flickr

It’s a new year and with it comes new health care technology hazards to keep in mind, as listed in the most recent ECRI Institute report, 2013 Top 10 Heath Technology Hazards. While some risks from last year’s list made a repeat appearance, a few new topics made the cut for 2013.

Alarm hazards still posed the greatest risk, topping the list at number one. Other repeat hazards included medication administration errors while using smart pumps, unnecessary radiation exposure, and surgical fires. For an overview on these, see our post from last year.

Several new opportunities for harm seemed to involve new information technology (IT) that is making its way into health care facilities, such as smartphones and mobile devices. Here’s a snapshot of several of these, and some suggestions the report gives on how to prevent them.

Patient/data mismatches in electronic health records (EHRs) and other health IT systems

The risk:
One patient’s records ending up in another patient’s file may not be a new phenomenon—it happened in traditional paper-based systems as well. But newer, more powerful health IT systems have the capability to transmit mistaken data to a variety of devices and systems, multiplying the adverse effects that could result from these errors.

Some suggestions: The report suggests that when purchasing health IT systems, facilities should consider how all the connected technologies facilitate placing the right patient data into the right record. It also states that a “patient-centric” approach is preferable to a “location-centric” one. All patient flow and device movement should be kept in mind, as well as planning for all types of transfers (not just routine ones). And during implementation of any project or software upgrade, appropriate testing should be carried out to avoid surprises.

Interoperability failures with medical devices and health IT systems

The risk:
Establishing interfaces among medical devices and IT systems has the potential to reduce errors associated with manual documentation, but achieving the appropriate exchange of data can be difficult, and can lead to patient harm. (For example, interfaces between medical devices may not work properly, systems can be incompatible, and one device can have unintended effects on another.)

Some suggestions: Although there are challenges to integrating medical devices and systems, the report stresses that health care facilities should be actively engaged in the process—albeit cautiously. An inventory of interfaced devices and systems, including software versions, should be kept. Hospitals should follow best practices as described in the International Electrotechnical Commissioner’s standards (available on the International Organization for Standardization’s Web site). When making changes to interfaced equipment, all stakeholders should be involved (and this includes nurses). Finally, before any broad system modifications are implemented, testing should be carried out to ensure everything works as expected.

Caregiver distractions from smartphones and other mobile devices

The risk: While much has been said about the security considerations associated with the use of smartphones, tablet computers, and other handheld devices, another topic that is starting to get attention is the potential for substandard patient care or even physical harm to patients if caregivers are distracted by their devices. Making mistakes or missing information as a result of distraction isn’t the only problem. Caregivers who are distracted by their devices may miss clues about the patient’s condition or cause patients to question the quality of their care.

Some suggestions: According to the report, staff should be educated about the risks associated with the use of smartphones and mobile devices, especially the potential for digital distractions that affect patient care. Hospitals should come up with a “mobile device management strategy” that includes appropriate use of the devices, including specific measures users must take to ensure safety and security. Hospitals may also want to consider restricting personal use of these devices during patient care activities.

Other hazards that topped the list for 2013 include the following:

  • air embolism hazards
  • inattention to the needs of pediatric patients when using technologies that may have been  designed for use in adults (such as radiology, oxygen concentrators, computerized provider order-entry systems, and electronic medical records)
  • inadequate reprocessing of endoscopic devices and surgical instruments

Click here to request a copy of the full report.—Amy M. Collins, editor

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Today’s Notes from the Nursosphere

December 7, 2010
Image of Japanese Attack - Pearl Harbor, Hawai...

Image via Wikipedia

As noted today by Joni Watson at Nursetopia, it’s Pearl Harbor Day, and nurses were (surprise) key players in that day’s awful events. Here’s how the post begins:

My heart was racing, the telephone was ringing, the chief nurse, Gertrude Arnest, was saying, “Girls, get into your uniforms at once, This is the real thing!”

Speaking of safety, “Top 10 Health Technology Hazards for 2011″ (pdf), from the ECRI Institute, gives us a list of hospital patient safety risks that, according to the authors, “reflects our judgment about which risks should receive priority now, a judgment that is based on our review of recent recalls and other actions . . . , our analysis of information found in the literature and in the medical device reporting databases of ECRI Institute and other organizations, and our experience in investigating and consulting on device-related incidents.” These include “radiation overdose and other dose errors during radiation therapy,” “alarm hazards,” and eight others.

And now to electronic charting vs. doing it the old-fashioned way: we have a comment thread going on at AJN‘s Facebook page about whether or not EHRs save nurses time or not. Go there to comment, or leave a comment here.

Also noted: Stephen Ferrara at A Nurse Practitioner’s View wonders whether the preceptorship model is still adequate for training NPs. Or is it time for a residency model instead?

I’m not necessarily referring to the typical residency training of physicians which takes place in hospitals but a residency-type of program in an out-patient setting (ironic that we use the term residency). We realize that healthcare is not exclusively delivered in hospitals. It takes place in independent providers offices, in community health centers, in mobile health vans, and in retail settings. It takes place in people’s homes and places of employment. It takes place in many of the health decisions that we make on a daily basis. I found this NP residency program in Connecticut that claims to be the first NP residency in the US. The programs admits 4 NPs each year and trains them to handle scenarios encountered in Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). The residency lasts 1 year and appears to be a wonderfully structured program and setting.

Just a few items of interest. As always, we welcome your comments.—JM, senior editor/blog editor 

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Finding a Job as a Nurse In a Digital Age — and Keeping It

October 26, 2010

Will at Drawing on Experience manages to post a new comic almost every day. A regular theme is the progress of his career—having finished his accelerated nursing program, he’s now looking for a job. To the left is a thumbnail of a recent drawing he did about one of the more annoying aspects of the process (click the image to visit his blog and see a larger version).

A nurse returns to work at age 68 and finds her biggest challenge is computers.Of course, this isn’t the first downturn we’ve had in the U.S. economy; as AJN clinical editor Christine Moffa wrote back in May, newly minted nurses have struggled to find work before. Once you actually do get a job as a nurse, there’s the small matter of doing it for the first time. Or for the second or third time—but as if it’s the first time, at least in some respects. The October Reflections essay, “Paper Chart Nurse,” gives another perspective on the ways computers have changed the lives of nurses. It’s by an oncology nurse who returned to practice two years ago, at age 66. Her struggles with adapting to using an electronic medical record system were at times profoundly discouraging; she just wasn’t as proficient as the younger nurses at computer use, despite all her skills and experience. Have a look and please, tell us what you think.—JM, senior editor

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What Is Meaningful Use? One Savvy Nurse’s Take

October 14, 2010

By Jared Sinclair, an ICU nurse in Nashville who has a blog about health care and technology

If you follow health care news regularly, and yet you still feel unsure what “meaningful use” means and how it will affect your job as a nurse, then you have something in common with even the most knowledgeable people on the subject. Despite the fact that discussion of meaningful use among health care IT and informatics folks has reached a fever pitch since the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act was passed last February, in many ways we are no closer to understanding how it will change health care than when discussion first began.

What do we know for sure? The HITECH Act promises incentive payments to providers and hospitals that use electronic health records in ways that meet a minimum set of requirements called “meaningful use.” That sounds simple enough; however, there isn’t just one set of requirements. The criteria for meaningful use will come in three stages, and the requirements for stages two and three have yet to be determined. This is why your local hospital’s nurse informaticists may be less than enthusiastic about the next five years of their jobs. They bear the responsibility for preparing their hospitals for huge changes—without the luxury of knowing what those changes will be.

We can get a glimpse of stages two and three by taking a closer look at the requirements for stage one. There are dozens of requirements, ranging from the use of computerized physician order entry (CPOE) to providing an electronic copy of a health record to a patient upon their request. To qualify for the incentive payments, hospitals must meet all of the requirements, but only to a specified degree. In the case of CPOE, for example, the Final Rule (see PDF link here) states:

More than 30% of unique patients with at least one medication in their medication list [must] have at least one medication order entered using CPOE.

In plain English, that means that a physician must order at least one drug for one third of his patients directly via a computer, and not with a handwritten order entered into a computer by a clerk.

The really worrisome issue. All of the meaningful use criteria merit discussion, but CPOE in particular stands out above the rest.  According to a comment made in the Final Rule (see PDF link above), CMS has received more concerned responses about CPOE than any of the other criteria. Stage one only requires a fraction of orders to be entered via CPOE, but the general opinion among industry leaders is that either stage two or three will require as much as 100% CPOE adoption. Consider what it would mean for a hospital to permanently do away with paper charts:

1. How would the transition be accomplished: all at once, or by one group of physicians at a time?

2. If a hospital physician can write an order via his office computer, how will the bedside nurse be alerted that an order has been written?

3. What if two physicians, one of whom has not been transitioned to CPOE, unknowingly order the same stat drug, one on paper and the other by the computer? Will the bedside nurse be able to manage keeping track of orders on two systems?

There have been some eyebrow-raising studies on the impact of CPOE on patient outcomes in the past several years, with stunning contrasts between their conclusions. Read the rest of this entry ?

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