The healthcare industry is in the middle of an IT revolution, with new technologies and devices being innovated and implemented daily to improve patient outcomes, making life easier for the front-line physicians and nurses at healthcare facilities. One device that has been a constant necessity prior to and throughout this IT revolution, is the Workstation on Wheels, mobile computer stations that can easily be transported between patients and around the hospital. As the healthcare industry has evolved, Workstation on Wheels have too, and today they are the key to optimizing workflow to provide patients with quality care.
In this article, we attempt to address the following question: What’s so special about having wheels on a computer? In our view, necessity is the mother of invention, and the advent of a mobile workstation is a necessity for any institution that wants to optimize the workflow and productivity of its patient-facing staff, reduce the incidence of errors in patient documentation, and actively enhance infection prevention. Let’s start by understanding how mobile workstations are used in a healthcare setting.
How are Mobile Workstations Used in Healthcare?
At the risk of stating the obvious, mobile workstations are a replacement for the stationary, desktop workstations that are used in most businesses, including the healthcare business. These workstations are typically operated by nurses for two reasons:
- Patient Documentation – Nurses spend 25-50% of their shifts documenting patient interactions, including health status. Doctors who see patients in the hospital record details on a chart and transcribe it later.
- Viewing Patient Records – Doctors use workstations to view a patient’s electronic medical history, or to view the results of recent medical imaging tests, such as x-rays or CAT Scans, for diagnostic purposes.
Electronic medical records have rapidly become commonplace in the United States medical industry since both public and private healthcare providers were mandated to adopt them as of January 1st, 2014. Since then, over 95% of hospitals and 60% of office-based medical practices have shown meaningful use of electronic medical records in their operations.
In view of that, the mobile workstation should be understood as an alternative to the stationary workstation that optimizes workflow and productivity for hospital staff, better facilitates the creation, modification, and maintenance of electronic medical records helps reduce the spread of infection and makes the best use of existing hospital IT infrastructure.
Mobile Workstations Optimize Workflow and Productivity
Any infrastructure upgrade in IT should help to optimize the workflow and productivity of the frontline workers that are engaged with it. Nurses and doctors want to accomplish more in their shifts, not less, and mobile workstations allow just that.
When nurses conduct patient check-ups using a mobile workstation, they can update that patient’s documentation and electronic records on the spot, rather than having to return to a stationary workstation in between patients. Nurses already spend 2-4 hours of each 8-hour shift engaged in documentation, so a change that adds just 30 minutes of productivity for each staff member can make a huge difference to the bottom line at your hospital.
Similarly, doctors who travel throughout the hospital to visit patients can use mobile workstations placed around each floor of the building, as a hub for information before and after their consultation with each patient. Doctors can conveniently access the patient's most up-to-date test results, progress notes, patient history and record their interactions, without having to return to the central nurses' station in between each patient. For doctors who are always on the move, mobile workstations save time that can be spent on activities that make a difference – listening to patients, discussing treatment options, conveying medical opinions, and delivering real quality care.
When your frontline staff is supported in their productivity, they get more done, and your facility earns more money as a result.
Workstations on Wheels Better Facilitate Patient Documentation
Patient documentation is an inefficient process in most hospitals – that’s why electronic medical records are becoming the industry standard for improving documentation practices at hospitals everywhere. To understand the point, imagine the following:
You’re a nurse in the seventh hour of your shift, and your feet hurt from walking between patients’ bedsides and your computer station to document health changes on your floor. You visit Bob, who is recovering from surgery to remove gallstones and check his vitals, along with some other measurements and qualitative questions about his condition. When you return to your station, Susie is updating data for another patient, and then needs to send a quick e-mail. By the time you sit down to update anything, what was Bob’s blood pressure again?
Can you imagine what would happen if a documentation error resulted in the death of Bob or another patient? What would that lawsuit cost? This situation may seem exaggerated, but it gets the point across -we would all be better off if nurses could immediately document their patient observations at the bedside and move on to the next patient when finished. Nurses may also make transcription errors when recording their written notes on a stationary terminal – mobile carts are the best means of expediting documentation and avoiding potentially disastrous errors.
Mobile Workstations Synergize with IT Products that Prevent Infections
Infection prevention is a priority at any hospital, with an emphasis on preventing the spread of infections between patients and healthcare workers. Mobile workstations are an excellent tool for limiting the spread of germs when combined with hardware devices manufactured with anti-microbial coatings.
The trouble with stationary workstations is that once you leave them to visit another patient, you can’t be sure of who or what touched them while you were gone. Mobile workstations which incorporate hardware that can be safely cleaned and disinfectant are the ideal tool for nurses who see many patients daily and need to ensure that each one is adequately protected from the spread of infection.
Mobile Workstations are Necessary for Optimally Leveraging Hospital IT Infrastructure
IT infrastructure at the hospital level is in a state of flux right now, but one thing we’re sure about is that the new changes will require mobile components to fully harness their abilities. With the widespread adoption of electronic medical records, it critical that hospitals embrace the technology that allows doctors, nurses, and therapists to consult those records at the bedside.
Healthcare happens at the interface between the patient and the doctor, and the tools that we give to each define the quality of care and directly impacts patient outcomes. The average interaction between a patient and physician lasts between 13 and 24 minutes, so to ensure that patients get the best possible treatment, we need to equip doctors with all the information and data they need to quickly understand the patient’s medical history, arrive at a diagnosis, and create a treatment plan that optimizes the patient’s opportunity for recovery.
Electronic medical records will help make this a reality, but we must put the information at the bedside to make it useful, and that’s where mobile carts will ultimately yield the most value in your healthcare facility.
As an industry-leading dealer of workstations on wheels for the healthcare industry, our job is to share our vision of how mobile computing can be combined with the right IT infrastructure to change the way healthcare workers and patients interact and improve operational efficiency for hospitals as well as healthcare outcomes. Workstations on wheels are a simple and cost-effective way to start making a big difference in your healthcare facility today.