In the ER, IT Efficiency Matters

Ana Cantu, Dell enterprise technology blogger | 1/11/2012 | 4 comments

Ana Cantu
Rural hospitals are no strangers to doing more with less. In a tough economic climate, they often lean more heavily on efficient IT to provide better -- and cheaper -- healthcare.

Take Mason General Hospital in Shelton, Wash., which needed to upgrade its IT infrastructure and ensure that its electronic medical records complied with the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. And it needed to do those things in a way that relieved the burden on its staff.

With the solutions it implemented, the hospital reduced cost of ownership for IT by 25 percent and reclaimed more than 18,000 hours in staff time -- time that could then be channeled back into emergency patient care.

“Technology makes patient care more efficient, making for better outcomes,” said Tom Hornburg, Mason General’s IT director.

The hospital turned to virtualization to fight server sprawl and conserve power and cooling resources. That allowed it to maintain its datacenter footprint and realize efficiencies, including eliminating planned downtime for maintenance and deploying virtual servers in just hours.

Increased performance improved data mining and reporting, which helped the hospital comply with Meaningful Use criteria. As Hornburg said, “More timely access to information directly impacts patient care, because we’re able to view trends and benchmarks and react faster.” And meeting HITECH deadlines means the hospital will receive the maximum reimbursement in federal stimulus funds.

Perhaps the biggest benefit came in Mason General’s critical point-of-care emergency department information system.

Emergency room users could swipe their ID badges to automatically log on to the system on any computer, and if they needed to log off, the same session would follow them to the next computer.

Hornburg estimated that the hospital’s secure single sign-on system saved an hour and a half every day for its 50 ER users -- more than 18,000 hours each year. That made healthcare providers’ jobs easier and allowed them to access important patient data quickly, improving care in a department where every second counts.

“Healthcare IT is becoming increasingly complex with growing volumes of data, hundreds, if not thousands, of disparate applications, and numerous standalone systems,” said David Zirl, vice president of healthcare and life sciences solutions sales at Dell.

Such infrastructure is difficult to manage, Zirl said, forcing hospitals like Mason General to apply resources toward maintenance rather than innovation.

“Additionally, caregivers and staff are not fully prepared for integrating technology into their daily routines,” Zirl said. “The lack of consideration for workflow creates additional complexity that hinders the people who are intimately involved in care delivery.”

But if hospitals make caregiver support a priority, they can find IT solutions that meet provider and patient needs.

Learn more:

Follow me (@AnaCatDell) on Twitter for more technology news and commentary.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
Taimoor Zubair   In the ER, IT Efficiency Matters   11/29/2012 1:48:00 PM
IT efficiency matters but not as much as human interaction
The doctor-patient interactions needs to be laid emphasis on. These days when you go to a hospital they are so busy treating you like a robot that your humanly feelings slowly ebb away. It's pretty depressing. Computerization of all the data is  helpful, but human interaction and human instinct are vital for the most accurate diagnosis/ best treatment for the patient. This factor cannot and should not be ignored. IT efficiency matters in a number of other ways though. Machinery in the ER and ICU can be improved, data coordinated and driven useful conclusions from..but apart from that, human instinct and interaction has to play all the role. Doctors need to explain everything to the patients for psychological healing..
megadl   In the ER, IT Efficiency Matters   2/26/2012 5:31:00 AM
quality of service matters.
I haven't had an xray taken for probably more than a decade and very recently had one taken. I was surprised at how fast it took and the convenience of the automated process. While efficiency is important, I am also afraid of completely relying on the automated process -- when our tools become smarter, people think a lot less and tend rely on the tools a lot more. Accuracy and the human element can not and should not be removed or reduced when IT makes the ER more efficient. Reliability matters a lot when lives or quality of life are at stake.
singlemud   In the ER, IT Efficiency Matters   2/23/2012 4:44:45 PM
quality of service matters.
FYI, I have been admitted in ER last year, it looks like the care provider are very  busy with recording all kind of data into the system. and do not have time to actually talk with the patient.

singlemud   In the ER, IT Efficiency Matters   2/23/2012 4:41:50 PM
RE: In the ER, IT Efficiency Matters
In the ER, with efficient IT solution, they can handle and admit more patient in the same time. The only problem is that the care provider will spent same or less amount of time on each patient, because they need to handle more patients, may resulting worse service care.

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