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Cover Story

obtain information from the board unless they were standing in front of it and the board could only be up- dated with information already known to staff in the ER. This traditional manual whiteboard did not present any new information to the department’s providers. The ER staff did not consider these limitations to have any impact on the overall speed of delivering patient care until a few te- nacious members of the IT department pointed out the advantages to automating ER patient tracking using business-intelligence (BI)

David Baum is a freelance business writer based in Santa Barbara, Calif. He frequently writes about information technology and its impact on healthcare. For more information on Information Builders solutions: www.rsleads.com/004ht-202

technology. BI refers to a broad category of software that is used for analyzing information, making decisions and managing performance. In a healthcare setting, BI reports are the most common way for businesses to display and distribute formatted information from enterprise data sources, such as the MEDITECH healthcare informa- tion system that helps this 155-bed facility in Ontario to manage its operation.

“Our organization had two distinct needs that led us to BI technology,” recalls Ed Norwich, manager of information-management technology at Cambridge Memorial Hospital. “We needed to accommodate the obvious requirement – an emergency room tracking board. We also wanted to develop a dashboard to pres- ent human resources data. This is a key component of the management-reporting system and it is also critical to improved decision making around resource manage- ment – in this case, sick leave and overtime. We knew a BI tool would help us extract and analyze business and clinical data.”

BI software selected

To meet these needs, Norwich and his team evaluated packaged BI solutions along with BI tools from Microsoft, Cognos, Information Builders and a few other software vendors. After a successful demonstration and proof of concept, they selected Information Builders’ WebFO- CUS BI software and asked Information Builders for help developing new BI solutions. “WebFOCUS looked easy to use and it integrated well with our surrounding IT infrastructure,” says Norwich. “It appeared we could use it to meet the BI needs of the hospital with relative ease.”

Information Builders’ professional services depart- ment worked closely with the hospital’s clinical and administrative staff to identify their needs, understand their priorities and map out BI solutions that met their requirements. For the ER tracking board, one signifi cant hurdle involved overcoming skepticism from the staff,

14 April 2010

particularly the ER staff, already happy with the manual whiteboard and existing management reports. In short, they did not see the need to replace what they already had, Norwich says.

“The ER department is extremely busy, and at fi rst the staff couldn’t really envision how this BI technology would help them,” admits Jennifer Hope, IMT project lead at Cambridge Memorial. “It took a few iterations to get the teams to identify how the BI technology could go above and beyond their critical needs and enhance the existing whiteboard functions. The clinical staff was entrenched in their own day-to-day processes, so they initially viewed the addition of a new tool as potentially more work without truly understanding what an elec- tronic tracking board would do.”

For the ER tracking board, one signifi cant hurdle involved overcoming skepticism from the staff, particularly the ER staff, already happy with the manual whiteboard and existing management reports.

The team pushed ahead, working with Information Builders to create the ER tracking board and integrate it with the existing IT systems and infrastructure. They created a system that displays real-time information about patients in the emergency department, both on- line and on a large wall monitor, including those in the waiting room.

The early skepticism of the ER staff was soon forgot- ten when the ER tracking board went live, Hope says. As medical and administrative staff members update patient records within the MEDITECH healthcare-information system, current information is dynamically refl ected in the results on the board, which means all authorized personnel continually have up-to-date information about the ER operation.

The board provides information about the status of laboratory and diagnostic tests, the services each patient has received, and when lab or test results are available, which speeds up the physician’s response. To preserve patient confidentiality, the actual results and other clinical information are not displayed on the ER tracking board. Authorized personnel can drill through to obtain test results and other information on demand.

Patients tracked continuously

“Physicians no longer have to log into a system or

manually fl ip through a chart to fi nd out which tests or exams have been completed,” says Norwich. “They know as soon as the results are in.”

HEALTH MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY

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