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

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. […]

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

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 […]

November 30th, 2015|infectious diseases|0 Comments

Nurse Informaticists Address Texas Ebola Case, EHR Design Questions

By Susan McBride, PhD, RN-BC, CPHIMS, professor and program director of the Masters in Nursing Informatics Program, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, and Mari Tietze, PhD, RN-BC, FHIMSS, associate professor and director, Interprofessional Health IT Program at Texas Woman’s University (TWU). The views expressed are those of the authors and don’t represent those of Texas Tech or TWU.

Silo_-_height_extension_by_adding_hoops_and_staves EHRs: information ‘siloes’ or interprofessional collaboration?

The recent Ebola case in Dallas—in which a patient was admitted to the hospital three days after he visited the ER exhibiting symptoms associated with Ebola and reporting that he’d recently traveled from West Africa—brought this global public health story close to home for many of us residing in the area. As has been widely reported, the patient died last week after nearly 10 days in the hospital.

An initial focus of media coverage was the suggestion that a failure of nursing communication had contributed to the release of the patient from the hospital on his first visit. Partly reflecting evolving explanations offered by the hospital, the media focus then shifted to a potential flaw in the hospital’s electronic health record (EHR) system, in which information recorded by a nurse about the patient’s travel history might not have been visible to physicians as well. […]

Health Technology Hazards: ECRI’s Top 10 for 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. […]

January 15th, 2014|digital health, Nursing, Technology|2 Comments

How Perioperative Medication Withholding Affects Patients with Parkinson’s Disease

By Sylvia Foley, AJN senior editor

The timing of antiparkinson medications has pro­found implications for motor and cognitive function.… If perioperative surgical staff aren’t sufficiently aware of the importance of minimizing disruptions to patients’ antiparkinson medication regimens, prolonged medi­cation withholding of several hours’ duration can occur. And patients with Parkinson’s disease whose doses are delayed may deteriorate quickly.

In January and again this month, we bring you a pair of CE–Original Research articles that describe the findings of two companion studies on how perioperative medication withholding affects patients with Parkinson’s disease. Here’s a short summary.

The quantitative study—what the EHRs said. The first article, “Perioperative Medication Withholding in Patients with Parkinson’s Disease,” discusses the results of a retrospective review by Kathleen Fagerlund and colleagues. The authors reviewed the electronic health records (EHRs) of 67 surgical patients who had undergone 89 surgeries unrelated to Parkinson’s disease. They looked at the duration of perioperative withholding of carbidopa-levodopa (Sinemet)—the gold standard treatment for Parkinson’s disease, it has a short half-life of just one to two hours—and at symptom exacerbations.

What they found was that medication withholding tended to be prolonged. The median duration of withholding for 32 inpatient and 57 outpatient procedures was more than 16 hours and more than 11 hours, respectively. They also found that for 56% of the inpatient procedures, the patient’s EHR contained a note referencing Parkinson’s disease symptoms or symptom management, which included increased agitation or confusion, increased tremors, and symptom management complicated by pain or pain medications. (Because outpatient EHRs contained minimal nursing notes and patients were discharged quickly, only inpatient EHRs were reviewed.)

figure_captureThe authors offer several recommendations, which include a call for improved nursing education about Parkinson’s disease; they state,

nursing education should stress the importance of patients continuing to take their antiparkinson medications with a sip of water up until shortly before the initiation of anesthesia, and of their resuming these medications as soon as possible after surgery.

The qualitative study—the patients’ take. The second CE, “The Perioperative Experience of Patients with Parkinson’s Disease,” discusses findings from a qualitative study by Lisa Carney Anderson and Kathleen Fagerlund. […]

February 4th, 2013|nursing research|1 Comment