Reducing or eliminating the likelihood of medical errors, and the associated liability, remains one of the most significant challenges facing health care organizations today. The health care industry and the government have drawn a bead on electronic patient records as a key way to reduce errors and health care costs. But that solution is still many years away. Today electronic patient records rarely are used due to high implementation costs and privacy concerns.
However, simpler, lower-cost technologies are making an impact on quality and accuracy of patient care. The strategic deployment of technology to better manage, archive and route patient information is crucial to the ability of health care organizations to improve the quality of patient care. Technologies are being deployed in new ways to not only reduce errors, but make patient care even easier for nurses, doctors and hospital staff.
New low-cost technology options enable hospitals to move forward with technology to lay the foundation for true digital workflow while providing immediate assistance with many paper-intensive processes. While few hospitals will convert to electronic patient records overnight, many are adding technologies that improve operations now and will help the organization cross the bridge to paperless operations in the future.
Multifunction technologycomputer printers that also function as scanners and copiershas inherent benefits that quickly become apparent in a health care setting, in many cases demonstrating a virtually instantaneous return on investment. Multifunction devices make it possible to begin the labor-intensive task of digitally capturing and storing paper-based patient information, even if the organization does not yet have in place the back-end systems needed to manage that information intelligently.
Nurses are a notoriously overworked segment of the health care industry. Every hour of patient care requires an additional hour of paperwork. These tedious requirements create a difficult work environment that leads to very high turnover rates and staffing shortages. With fewer staff and a heftier workload, the chance for errors increases, as does insurance exposure. More importantly, nurses have less time to do the most important part of their job, taking care of patients.
Multifunction technology can eliminate some of these issues by making paperwork faster and easier to complete at the point of care. By reducing the pieces of equipment at the nursing station and routing documents electronically, facilities have seen vast improvements in their operational efficiency, less turnover and reductions in costs. The amount of paper required from the patient care process is reduced.
Another issue facing health care organizations is accurate patient identification. In an effort to reduce the devastating statistics surrounding medical errors, recent legislation requires hospitals to use at least 2 patient identifiers whenever administering medications or other treatments. Many hospitals now include a barcode as one identifier on each patients wristband to identify them positively and match them to their medication and treatment plans.