A Stitch in Time Saves Patients

Specialties vary from hospital to hospital and staff to staff, but there’s one thing all health care institutions and professionals prioritize: time. It takes time to place orders for tests and medication, and to sift through patient charts and records. The time between when a clinician performs an action and when she documents that action in her chart can be long – and faithfully documenting a whole workday’s actions, therefore, can be difficult.

And the time a clinician spends with a patient — not just the amount of time, but the quality of it — has a tremendous impact on the patient’s experience.

No one has thought about this more than Ed Ricks, chief information officer for Beaufort Memorial Hospital, in Beaufort, S.C. Ricks, a CFO-turned-CIO, describes the challenge of modern hospital management this way: between new reimbursement rules, HIPAA compliance and the legislative requirement for doctors to see more patients per day, Beaufort staff was bound to be stressed out and overworked. He needed to find a way to minimize inefficiencies; to streamline processes; to improve communication. He knew gaining more time required better workflow design and mobile technology. Finally, he knew he had to solve this riddle: “Applications aren’t mobile, but the clinicians are.”

Beaufort already had bedside and nurses’ terminals throughout their 194-bed facility, but their setup had two main problems. First, not every terminal used the same hardware, which meant there wasn’t a consistent look and feel for the clinician or doctor. The second problem was a complex process for signing on: clinicians had to remember “between six and eight passwords to log in to the different applications they used all day long,” Ricks explains. As a result, doctor adoption was limited and reluctant.

Fast forward to today, and Beaufort has successfully integrated an efficient workflow experience that is truly mobile. Blending VMware Horizon (with View) virtual desktops with Imprivata’s OneSign Single Sign-On, it now takes clinicians and doctors mere seconds to call up their own personal settings at any of the 200-plus terminals.

Doctors have the additional option of pulling up their virtual desktop on any device — phone, tablet, home computer — wherever they are. Everything they can do inside the hospital, from viewing X-rays to placing orders, can be done remotely. So whether they’re on call, making rounds with iPad in hand, holding offsite office hours or checking-in from home, Beaufort physicians are there for their patients.

Clearly, this is something the physicians value. “Adoption was really quick, almost as quick as we could scale it out through the hospital.”

Dr. Stacey Johnston had a big hand in that. As both medical director for Beaufort’s Hospitalist Program and chief medical information officer, it’s been her job to model usage of the technology and bring physicians on board. “I have offered to sit with physicians to help them as they’re getting used to the system,” she says.

But she isn’t alone in this role. IT is also on-hand to make sure these tools actually work for the people using them. “We have a great IT Department that will come and round with the physicians when they are doing their order entry, from admissions to post-op care.” At Beaufort, it’s all about what’s best for the patients, and a strong partnership between IT, Johnston and the other doctors is critical.

It’s easy for Dr. Johnston to promote usage among fellow physicians, because as a practitioner herself she finds the technology incredibly useful. “I am able to open medical records at bedside, and I feel the patients really appreciate that. I can actually show them their X-rays and images so they can see for themselves.”

She has no reason to take separate notes and, hours later, try to remember everything she did while seeing the patient. She can update patient records accurately and in real time, at bedside — which both provider and patient find very reassuring.

“Bottom line: I think using virtual screens and Single Sign-On has been better for the patients, which is ultimately why we’re here. We’re here for patient care.”