Many CMIOs are quickly realizing that their EDIS won't get them all the way through Stage 1 meaningful use.


Healthcare is realizing that the return from emergency department information systems (EDIS) isn't as “meaningful” as they thought. Due to various gaps in EDIS vendor functionality, need for additional efficiency and compliance goals, organizations increasingly look to real-time locating systems (RTLS) as an ideal complement for not only meaningful use — but meaningful ROI. And the numbers tell the story.

A recent “Health IT Top Trends Survey” from CMIO showed that 69 percent of organizations already have EDIS technology installed. Recently, organizations of all sizes have come to expect great things from their EDIS — and for good reason. In today's busy emergency departments, the EDIS has become an effective tool for supporting physicians with better decision support and helping nurses to more efficiently document the care and treatment of patients.

Furthermore, in a 2011 KLAS survey of more than 500 providers, 80 percent of those interviewed expressed plans to utilize their EDIS to help them attest for Stage 1 meaningful use. Obviously, many organizations have big plans for their EDIS moving forward, given the comprehensive power of the system combined with the significant technology investment.

EDIS alone cannot conquer Stage 1

Many CMIOs are quickly realizing, however, that their EDIS won't get them all the way to their destination. In the same KLAS report, only one-third indicated their vendor can deliver everything they need for meaningful use. The remaining two-thirds include organizations using systems by some of the leading names in HIT.

Many have found that while the EDIS does an accurate job of capturing documentation, updates to the EDIS “patient location screens” must be accomplished manually, which in terms of workflow means that a nurse is required to periodically update the patient location. Other important tasks of managing the patient flow in and out of the department, handling family inquiries and location concerns can become challenging for the charge nurse and/or ward clerk, unless an accurate and reliable RTLS is used in conjunction with the EDIS. When this is the case, the hospital can process and document patient flow automatically — without the need to interact with either system simply by having patients and staff wear a small badge that emits a digitized infrared signal to determine location and patient status.

The boost: real-time locating systems

More and more hospitals today are leveraging RTLS technology, where patients, staff and equipment carry small, lightweight badges that emit signals containing unique identification codes. As the badge moves throughout the facility, staff receive real-time location updates (which, when infrared is used, is accurate to within inches), along with intelligence, including care status, assigned room vs. actual location, special needs, wait times, pending orders, etc.

The organization can automatically share this information with all staff via electronic whiteboards, alerts, dashboards or mobile devices. Automatic time stamps of patient “door-to-doc” times and overall visit times are easily captured for required meaningful-use reporting. This helps ensure delivery of safer, timelier patient care, with real-time situational awareness to help prevent bottlenecks and reduce overcrowding.

Busy, often chaotic emergency departments require coordinated care and effective communication. When staff knows where to find patients, one another and equipment, organizations eliminate time-consuming walking surveys, overhead paging, phone tag and interruptions, creating a more efficient and cost-effective operation.

As a complement to EDIS, RTLS is increasingly becoming the go-to technology used by organizations to achieve not only meaningful use, but meaningful ROI. Look for a best-of-both-worlds scenario with EDIS and RTLS working alongside one another to achieve: reduced wait times, increased bed capacity, increased patient safety, increased patient satisfaction, improved staff morale, reduced staff turnover, increased reimbursement and fewer errors.     


Ginger Banks is a former clinical analyst with PeaceHealth, Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend, as well as a retired lt. col.
She has more than 36 years experience in nursing and computer technology.
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