Report: Healthcare ready to embrace point-of-care IT

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More hospitals are using IT at the point of care to enhance patient safety, reduce the risk of medical errors and improve productivity but some technology and devices still need to evolve, according to a new study “The Point of Care Computing for Nurses,” conducted by Spyglass Consulting Group. The firm conducted 100 in-depth interviews with nurses working in acute care and ambulatory environments across the United States over a four-month period beginning in April 2007.

The purpose of the interviews was to identify the needs and requirements for point-of-care computing through discussions about: existing workflow inefficiencies in accessing clinical information, current usage models for computing devices and solutions and barriers for widespread adoption.

According to the results, healthcare organizations have made significant investments upgrading their clinical information systems and technical infrastructure to extend the reach of existing systems enabling nurses, physicians, and other allied health professional access to patient health information at or near point of care. Organizations have deployed fixed location terminals and a wide variety of mobile computing devices for nurses to use to help them treat patients including smartphones, laptops, tablet PCs and mobile clinical carts. 

Despite spending nearly half their time documenting treatments, 78 percent use IT applications to record care at the patient’s bedside, according to the report, to save time. Of those interviewed, 36 percent are using automated products to capture vital signs for high-acuity patients that can be reviewed and automatically uploaded to the patient’s electronic record, saving them time and increasing productivity, Spyglass said.

Despite the increased IT adoption, respondents said there are still a few challenges to overcome. According to the report, “point-of-care computing devices are inadequate” and nurses are “concerned about the usability and portability of computing devices deployed at point of care. Business class computers are not well suited to meet the heavy demands of a healthcare environment and networks are unreliable,” the report said.

Nurses also said that technical infrastructure is immature to support point-of-care computing and believe their organizations “lack the appropriate technical infrastructure to support point of care computing including reliable networks, systems interoperability across the continuum of care, and security requirements that do not impede nursing productivity.” 

According to Spyglass, point-of-care computing needs to “evolve to provide higher levels of synchronization and integration of hardware, software and infrastructure to streamline nursing workflow process and improve communications amongst care team members.”