Turning EMR Information into Real-Time Clinical Insight
A Guest Post By: Susan Niemeier, Chief Nursing Officer, Capsule Tech, Inc.
It’s 3AM—do you know where your vital signs are? How about your ventilator or blood gas data?
If this crucial information is still scrawled on a clipboard or paper towel several hours into your shift, then clearly your hospital is not reaping the full benefits of an advanced EMR. If, in fact, the data has been manually inputted into the EMR and you are plagued by the nagging feeling that it may not be clear, accurate and complete, then something is amiss. And if this is a frequent situation as you balance the challenges of patient care and IT management, then unfortunately you’re not alone.
In fact, the point where overburdened caregivers are required to constantly manage the EMR may be one of the most significant bottlenecks in the hospital information age—and one of the greatest barriers to adopting the EMR and realizing its extensive benefits.
As almost everyone in the healthcare field is aware, The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 incentivized the adoption of the electronic health record and fast tracked efforts to implement this technology. The program motivated hospitals to meet deadlines for achieving meaningful use and for adopting a wide range of capabilities within their EMRs. The benefits gained through EMR implementation are significant and promise greater efficiency, higher quality of care and safer patients. But, the advancement of the EMR also exposes an area in need of improvement, the speed in which data is in the EMR and the reliability of the entered data.
It’s all too common. Nurses, technicians and others charged with the critical task of bedside care—however dedicated, talented and caring—can only accomplish so much during their limited shift time. Of course, their first responsibility is the care of patients, whose health and safety depends on them. At the same time, these same clinicians are typically charged with the responsibility of collecting pools of data from bedside devices—ranging from vital sign monitors and ventilators to pumps—and transcribing this into the patient’s digital record. Because when patient care trumps technology, as it should, digital information often suffers.
Think about it—from a patient care standpoint, the true value of the EMR is not simply recording information—but building insight. The benefit is the intelligence EMR data provides skilled clinicians, often in real time, to help drive the highest quality of patient care. The result of the clinician’s often conflicting responsibility for patient care and data input can set off a vicious cycle: High quality treatment is predicated on the accuracy and timeliness of EMR data, which in turn is restricted by how much time nurses and technicians must spend during their shifts on direct care at the expense of updating the EMR. The more care a critically ill patient needs, the less time remaining for data input and the lower the quality of the EMR information that drives patient treatment. When life hangs in the balance, even in today’s high tech age, the reality is that vitally important data about the patients, who need treatment most, may be written on to a paper towel or alcohol wipe!
Medical Device Integration (MDI) provides a better answer. MDI plays an important role in improving the quality of data by automating the timely transfer of information from monitors, for example, to the EMR. Other devices can be integrated as well such as ventilators, intra-aortic balloon pump, hemodialysis machines, infant incubators, blood gas monitors, beds and scales. This automation allows data to flow from a device at the point of care to the patient’s record. The clinician can reinvest their time at the bedside, enhancing the patient experience and potentially outcomes—without worrying about where they put a scrap of paper or towel.