Implementing the IT portion of health care reform is more than just digitizing and securing patient records. The real benefits come from streamlining workflows and reducing administrative overheard—with the ultimate goal of enhancing the quality of care and patient safety. Doing so requires that all steps in the health care process, from patient check-in, administration, to the actual point of care are efficient and accurate.
Manual Data Management Increases Errors and Costs
However, hospitals and other medical centers still lag behind other industries in implementation of automation technology. More often than not, medical staff still performs administrative tasks manually, resulting in significant overhead, errors, and high costs. Research by PriceWaterhouseCoopers revealed that manually processing an invoice costs $1.26, compared to an electronic invoice at 36 cents. This difference is staggering, not to mention the added risk of transcription errors.
Furthermore, wrong-site surgery continues to pose a significant challenge to patient safety in the U.S. Another challenge is to make sure that the right patient gets the right medication at the right time. Keeping track of blood samples, drug supplies, and patient information is critical to maintaining efficiency and delivering the best patient care. Replacing manual data entry and patient information with data management and bar code technologies are key enablers for automating and improving accuracy in a wide range of health care processes.
Streamlining Workflow and Care Delivery
The paper trail for patient care meanders down many paths. Staff must collect, log, and send out medical samples; administrators must update and link diagnosis and prescription paperwork to existing patient records, provider plans, and point of care information. Digitizing this information is a major step toward improving these processes. Tagging medical samples, pharmaceuticals, legacy paperwork, and patient wristbands with bar codes is another.
Consider Doctor’s Hospital, an acute care facility located in Edinburg, Texas. Upon implementing digital records and workflow automation, administrative bottlenecks disappeared, while care and adjudication decision speed increased because patient data, risk management information, and capital-purchase documents were electronically linked and easily accessible. Staff can now trace and gather claims in a fraction of the time. Bar codes enable easy tracing and scanning of clinical samples, medical equipment, and tagged documents for easy association with patient data.
What’s more, adding automation can improve both the quality and delivery of patient care. Consider the seemingly simple task of creating patient ID wristbands. Without automation, ward nurses must hand write all patient wristbands using information from the patient’s medical history. The nurse must manually transcribe the patient data, which wastes time and adds risk.
Automating the patient ID process with bar codes, printed on-demand, with data linked to the medical center’s EHS saves time, allowing medical staff to focus on other tasks. Most important, the direct linkage of data between the bar coded wristband, diagnosis history, and other clinical information can help ensure that medical staff performs the correct surgery, delivers the right medication at the right time, and improves both the quality of care and patient safety.
For more information about bar code and other workflow automation technologies, see http://www.zebra.com/healthcare