Information Technology and Patient Care: Are They Compatible?

By Pamela McNutt, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Methodist Health System

Recently named among the Top 25 Women in Healthcare and the first CIO selected from across the nation for this honor by Modern Healthcare magazine.

There’s nothing like that feeling in your stomach when you’re about to go live with a new computer program, especially when it affects the way you deliver patient care. Information technology (IT) is now a driving force behind many clinical process improvements and changes, such as automating or enhancing activities like charting, dispensing medications, and order entry directly by physicians.

Methodist Health System continues to be among the IT pace-setters, impacting patient quality of care. In 2006, we implemented bedside bar-coded medication processes, providing increased safety, a cross-check for administering the right medication to the right patient, and, ultimately, peace of mind for our staff.

Methodist is now implementing electronic health records (EHRs) so patient charts can be accessible anywhere, anytime, with consistent, standardized information. Instead of one physical chart located in an office, there is one electronic file for each patient, providing caregivers in multiple locations more current and complete information about the patient.

Making the transition to EHRs hasn’t been easy, but Methodist is an organization that provides extensive education and training before, during, and after implementation. Our goal is to help clinicians learn to use these tools with minimal interruption in productivity. We help our staff understand the significance behind the technology, and we’re committed to preparing them for big changes that affect how they do their jobs.

When the change to EHRs seems overwhelming, remember to review the long-term goals and key benefits:

  1. Clinical alerts. Caregivers get a real-time view of what’s going on with the patient and

    receive notifications of things they may have overlooked.

  2. Assurances related to quality of care. Electronic information is constantly measured to determine variances, enabling us to tweak processes almost immediately to improve patient care delivery.
  3. Decision-making. With EHRs, patient information can be accessed from different locations so physicians, specialists, and other health care providers can check lab results and other critical information to decrease waiting time between tests or procedures.
  4. Standardized protocols. Quality of care, monitoring clinical indicators proactively, and measuring performance all depend on this.

IT also opens the door to wireless devices, which is a big trend right now. Wireless phones, tablets, and computers give clinicians more mobility and enhanced productivity. Internet access puts reference materials at our fingertips. In today’s hospital, caregivers want mobile technology that goes to the bedside and increases accessibility. Bottom line: Technology enables caregivers to spend more time with their patients, and that’s what really matters.

To learn more about working at Methodist Health System, where high tech helps the human touch shine, visit Jobs.MethodistHealthSystem.org.

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