Archive for the ‘electronic medical records’ Category

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Electronic Health Records: Still-Evolving Tools to Help or Hinder Nurses

December 14, 2015

By Betsy Todd, MPH, RN, CIC, AJN clinical editor

Photo by Marilynn K. Yee/New York Times/Redux

Photo by Marilynn K. Yee/New York Times/Redux

One of my earliest memories of electronic health records (EHRs) is the day I had to review a chart at another hospital in the city. As I headed over to medical records, I expected at worst a “big” chart—one of those 15-inch stacks of multiple folders from a long hospitalization. I wasn’t allowed access to their system to view the chart online, so I was escorted into a separate room, in which the printed-out chart was waiting for me.

But their electronic chart wasn’t “printer-friendly,” and the hard copy version now consisted of thousands of pages of documentation spread out over a nine-foot long table. Many of the pages included only a line or two of print. Making sense of this chart was a nightmare.

My own (large, well-resourced) hospital had been one of the early adopters of an extremely clinician-friendly system, and I was shocked over the next few years when I encountered the many unwieldy, maddening charting systems that have been rushed into use at many hospitals.

In this month’s AJN, nurse and technology expert Megen Duffy gives us a clear-eyed look at the state of electronic health records today in “Nurses and the Migration to Electronic Health Records.” She is realistic about the pros and cons of electronic charting, pointing out the limitations of (for example) drop-down menus and forced choices in lieu of narrative notes, while offering a glimpse of what a well-designed system can do for us. Read the rest of this entry ?

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AJN in December: Inside an Ebola Unit, Acupressure, Early Mobility, EHRs, More

November 30, 2015

AJN1215.Cover.OnlineOn this month’s cover, nurse Elie Kasindi Kabululu cares for a patient at Centre Médical Evangélique in Nyankunde, Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo. Originally, this location served a population of 150,000 and also housed a nursing school; but in 2002, during war in the region, the facility was attacked. About 1,000 people were killed—including patients and staff—and the center was looted and destroyed.

Providing medical assistance in the world’s war-torn and neediest areas is commonplace for health care providers like Kabululu, just as it is for humanitarian organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which works in 70 countries worldwide—nearly half of these in Africa. Shortly after the recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, MSF sent close to 300 international workers to help combat this public health emergency. To read one nurse’s experience traveling to Liberia for MSF to work in a treatment center, see “Inside an Ebola Treatment Unit: A Nurse’s Report.”

Some other articles of note in the December issue:

Original Research: Implementation of an Early Mobility Program in an ICU.” This article, from our Cultivating Quality column, recounts how the effects of an early mobilization program delivered to critically ill patients at a community hospital by an independent ICU mobility team contributed to fewer delirium days and improvements in patient outcomes, sedation levels, and functional status.

CE Feature: Incorporating Acupressure into Nursing Practice.” The effects of acupressure can’t always be explained in terms of Western anatomical and physiologic concepts, but this noninvasive practice involves minimal risk, can be easily integrated into nursing practice, and has been shown to be effective in treating nausea as well as low back, neck, labor, and menstrual pain. The author discusses potential clinical indications for the use of acupressure, describes the technique, explains how to evaluate patient outcomes, and suggests how future research into this integrative intervention might be improved.

From our iNurse column: Nurses and the Migration to Electronic Health Records.” In many settings, the clock has been ticking for providers to switch to electronic health records (EHRs). Most U.S. hospitals are now using some form of EHR system, as are a smaller majority of physicians’ offices. This article presents the challenges and benefits of using electronic health records and provides tips for adapting to EHR systems.

There’s much more in our December issue, so click here to browse the table of contents and explore the issue on our Web site.

 

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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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