“People often don’t realize how much technology is in a place,” said Kelly Lucas, Chief Information Officer for Sampson Regional Medical Center. His statement is certainly true for the hospital. Many may not be aware of all the kinds of technology the hospital uses to keep patients safe and to possibly save their lives.
The hospital has recently implemented, or is in the process of implementing, numerous kinds of new medical technology. While each of the technologies has its own unique functions, all have one important purpose — avoiding errors and ensuring the best safety and care for patients.
One new technology the hospital has implemented is the Electronic Medication Administration Record (EMAR) which is used to help prevent errors in administering medications to patients.
“I don’t have the exact numbers but I do know that errors in medicine administration account for many re-admissions to the hospital,” noted Lucas. “Every transition of care is a potential spot where an error with medicines can occur.”
According to Lucas, EMAR keeps a record of all the medications a patient takes. This information can be accessed by the patient’s various doctors, nurses, and pharmacies. By all these parties having access to a patient’s medication record, all involved are aware of what each has prescribed and is doing for the patient. Having this flow of information helps prevent problems with medication administration, such as a patient accidently doubling up on medicine because it was prescribed by two different doctors who were each unaware of the patient’s full medication record. Now, all parties have access to the same information, helping to prevent such accidents.
“EMAR is all about getting the right information to all the providers involved and creating synergy between all those members for the good of the patient,” explained Lucas.
Similarly, Medication Verification at the Bedside (BSMV) is another technology that is used to make sure that the right medicine is going to the right patient and that there are no problematic interactions.
“There are four criteria or checks. There’s the check for the patient which ensures that the right patient is getting the necessary medicine. There’s the check for the person delivering the medicine which ensures that the right person is administering the medicine. There’s also the check for the drug, making sure the proper drug is being administered, and lastly, there’s the check for the order of the drug, making sure that the right doctor ordered the right drug,” explained Lucas. “Every person or drug involved has a bar-code that is scanned so the checks can be done and all the criteria has to match. If not, alerts go off.”
Lucas added that BSMV also checks for potentially dangerous interactions. “It does a drug-drug and a drug-food interaction check to ensure that the patient can take drug X with drug Y and so forth.”
Like much of the technology, BSMV is all for the patient. “The hospital receives no revenue from this. It’s all for quality and the patient’s safety,” shared Lucas.
Another technology used to cut down on medical errors is Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE). It helps prevent errors when information is transferred, whether it’s from a doctor to a nurse or a hospital to a pharmacy.
With this technology, doctors’ somewhat illegible scribble, which runs the risk of being interpreted wrongly by transcriptionists, is no longer an issue. “CPOE does away with transcription and the errors that can possibly result from that,” noted Lucas.
Now doctors document their notes and prescriptions electronically through a system that requires them to fill in all the necessary information. If a piece of needed information is not entered, an alert lets the doctor know, said Lucas. This first check ensures that important information is not left out or overlooked.
Additional checks, some by the technology and others by nurses and pharmacists, follow. “There are technology controls every step of the way plus some human intervention checks,” said Lucas. “It’s a lot of checks, all for patient safety.”
The hospital has also started using Baxter Sigma Pumps, smart IV pumps that administer medications only after ensuring that the patient is receiving the proper dosage.
“The pumps check with a drug library which has recorded how much of a particular medicine a person should have. This is really important because if you give a person too much medicine such as morphine you can kill a person,” explained Lucas. “These pumps prevent hospital staff from plugging in the wrong information and giving patients too much medicine.”
Another new technology the hospital is using helps eliminate unecessary patient transfers by making it easier for doctors to collaborate with other medical professionals in order to determine what is best for a particular patient. According to Lucas, the New Patient Monitors for Telemedicine allow SRMC physicians to consult with specialists at tertiary facilities. The facilities currently involved are UNC Hospitals, Wake Med, Cape Fear Valley, and New Hanover Regional.
“If one of our physicians consults with another physician at one of these facilities, toegether they may decide that the patient doesn’t need to be transfered. It may be better for the patient to stay here locally where family is. It helps keep patients where they can best be helped,” noted Lucas.
The hospital is excited to have access to this kind of collaboration. “We want to tap all of the resources available to us,” said Lucas. “Information is power.”
The hospital’s new technology even extends into patients’ homes. Lucas explained that the Home Health Telephony technology allows patients to be under observation while in the comfort of their own homes. Patients’ health information, such as weight and blood pressure, is monitered electonically from the home and is then reported to the patients’ nurses. If a nurse notices a change in a patient’s health that warrants medical attention, the nurse can notfiy the patient quickly and deal with the issue in a timely manner.
Patients will also find the new Patient Portal very helpful and convenient, remarked Lucas. Patients can log into the portal and view their medical records, their test results, etc. Patients will also be able to request appointment scheduling through the portal.
“Eventually, it will be a way for patients to communicate with their doctors,” added Lucas.
Looking at the big picture, all this new medical technology the hospital is utilizing is part of a greater healthcare reform, according to Lucas. “We [the nation] can’t keep spending the way we’re currently spending, unless we want to sacrifice in other areas like education or transportation. There’s three main points; we’ve got to improve patient experience, improve population health, and reduce costs. Technology plays a significant role in working on all of that.”
“Technology is the spearhead,” attested Lucas. “The driving premise for all this technology is getting the right information to the right people at the right time.”
These new medical technologies are also the forerunners of a health information exchange, commented Lucas. “It’s an attempt to synergize a patient’s medical information into one longitudinal record. It’s aiming for a cradle to grave record.”
As he looks ahead to the exchange’s full implementation, Lucas is optimisitc about where its leading. “When it fully comes together, wherever you show up for medical help, your information will be available there and it could help save your life. If I’m off somewhere and need medical attention, I certainly want those doctors to know what my doctors here know. For instance, I want them to be aware of things like if I’m allergic to a particular drug or to latex.”
Lucas praised SRMC and the local community for their progressive perspective, especially where technology is concerned. “Not all hospitals are involved yet; some are sitting back and waiting. This hospital has been pushing for such advances long before it was regulated by the government. That’s due to our CEO David Masterson’s leadership; he’s very patient-centered. I’m glad to be working for a place that’s forward thinking and that’s focused on doing the right thing, especially for the patients.”
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 123 or via email at email@example.com.