PCs on the Move: Streamlining Patient Care at the Point of Care

Handheld computers in a variety of sizes and configurations have become vital to gathering information at the point of care as well as educating patients. Handheld and tablet PCs are becoming more widely adopted in a variety of clinical settings, providing physicians with immediate, mobile access to data and images to improve workplace efficiency and patient care—all at the tips of their fingers.

A PC in (almost) every pocket

After successfully completing an EHR rollout at Heritage Valley Health System in Pittsburg, Penn., physicians and administrators wanted to elevate patient care and improve day-to-day efficiency by making all of a patient’s vital, real-time information accessible at the point of care for more than 4,000 employees and more than 300 physicians throughout the hospital system. To accomplish this, they’ve completed a 70 percent deployment of wireless iPAQ Pocket PCs from Hewlett Packard. In all, 210 physicians can upload patient information, hospital schedules, radiology reports—24/7.

“We want to eliminate the pager and incorporate the PDA as an integral part of patient care,” says CIO David Carleton. The hospital has developed an in-house, back-end data repository by working with physicians over the last 24 months to focus on the continuum of care. “We support them in the acute-care setting, their offices, as well as home,” says Carleton. “The iPAQ lets physicians access information from any of these areas to verify what the schedule is for the day, what a patient status is—to simplify their day, and essentially, their life.”

WiFi connectivity transmits information securely and privately, Carleton says. “Information is encrypted in transmission and on the device itself. On the iPAQ, information is purely transactional, not for storage.” The Pocket PCs have software that’s enabled whenever the user enters a WiFi environment. Once the user leaves the WiFi environment, the device is offline and no information can be accessed.

“We really believe that the handheld can be the point of entry and notification point for physicians,” says Carleton. He says that in the near future a radiologist will be able to walk into a room with a report on a handheld and the device will “communicate” with a larger high-end desktop workstation to bring up the same study on the workstation’s display for review.

Investing in screen real estate

Springfield Clinic in Springfield, Ill., is a multi-specialty clinic offering a variety of services such as surgery, orthopedics, ophthalmology, ambulatory care, family practice and cardiology throughout a nine-county region. All of this makes access to patient information a challenge. After implementing an electronic medical record (EMR) from Allscripts for universal access, Springfield looked to tablet PCs as a mobility solution for physicians traveling from clinic to clinic. Springfield administrators chose the Motion C5 mobile clinical assistant from Motion Computing because it mimicked the patient chart for a more traditional, comfortable patient experience, says CIO Jim Hewitt. “The tablet fits into the daily workflow as a clipboard would, but with significant productivity and efficiency gains,” he says. Information is accessed and transmitted using the tablet, but not stored.

At the point of care, Springfield wanted doctors to have immediate access to patient information and a way to directly input information without a technology barrier between patient and physicians—all without losing resolution.

“Screen real estate is everything,” he says. “Most organizations are trying to fit more information on a screen resolution of 1024 x 768 at minimum. A smaller screen size that is trying to support that resolution is almost impossible to see and not an option for us,” he says. “It is not diagnostic quality, but it does exactly what you need it to do in the exam room.”

“We wanted the ability to do everything in an exam room—to show the patient everything he or she needs to see. With the C5, we have information at our fingertips in a compact wireless device—total patient care at the point of patient care.”