Healthcare information technology is a rapidly transforming area of opportunity for both physicians in the United States and the global healthcare community, promising to improve patient safety, save time for physicians and nurses involved in patient documentation, improve workflows, and enhance patient care outcomes by better enabling the flow of information within hospitals and individual practices, and throughout the healthcare system.
The principle mechanism of achieving these outcomes over the next decade will be Point of Care (PoC) technology – the hardware and software used by nurses and doctors to facilitate improvements to the documentation, sharing and usage of patient information. This article looks at how PoC technologies are being adopted in the medical industry, the impact they’re having on patient outcomes, and our projections for PoC technologies as a cornerstone of hospital IT systems in the future.
What is Point of Care Technology?
PoC technology encompasses the devices and systems that support health-care professionals in their daily activities of monitoring patients, caring for them, and documenting their health progress. The usage of PoC technologies enables and empowers healthcare providers in two key ways:
Bedside Usage – The most important aspect of PoC technology is that it is present at the bedside. PoC technologies are used to facilitate and improve interactions between patients and their nurses, doctors, surgeons, and other medical advisors, leading to better healthcare outcomes.
Technological Versatility – Point of Care technologies that give doctors and nurses access to the hospital’s IT system are virtually limitless in their application for improving patient outcomes. Whether you’re looking at a mobile PoC terminal that caregivers can move between patients, or a stationary installation that a triage nurse uses for patient intake, PoC devices have great versatility and software compatibility, enabling your front-line medical staff to address their needs in the most effective way.
The Current State of PoC Technology in the Medical Industry
PoC technology is a game-changing innovation that harnesses your hospital’s IT structure to enhance several aspects of workflow at your facility. Here are just a few ways that PoC technology can be implemented at your hospital and clinic to improve efficiency and outcomes for physicians and patients:
PoC Technology Facilitates Access to Electronic Medical Records
The transition to electronic medical record keeping (EMR) has been in the works for a long time throughout the medical industry. It began in 2009 when federal lawmakers mandated that all public and private healthcare providers must be able to demonstrate “meaningful use” of electronic medical records by January 1st, 2014. As of the end of 2016, 95% of Critical Access Hospitals and 60% of office-based physicians have demonstrated “meaningful use” of EMR.
The digitization of patient records has provided a significant benefit for healthcare facilities. This modern method of accessing and documenting patient medical data allows physicians in both hospitals and clinics to better access, modify, store, and share patient’s medical history using Point of Care Technology.
Enhance Documentation with Mobile PoC Terminals
A wall-mounted PoC terminal in every room/treatment area or workstation on wheels has the potential to create significant time and cost savings in any hospital or clinical setting. A variety of studies concluded that nurses spend 25-50% of their shift on documentation, and most of this is done in the traditional manner – on a physical chart with a pencil and paper. This means that nurses are regularly involved in the accurate retrieval, production, modification, and storage of critical patient data.
The implementation of a wall-mounted or mobile PoC terminal that would allow nurses to conduct documentation at the patient’s bedside using a mobile electronic device would create significant time and cost savings, enhance the quality and quantity of documentation produced, and enable nurses to spend more time directly caring for patients.
PoC Technologies Streamline Critical Activities
Point of Care technologies present an exciting opportunity for hospitals and clinics to invest in technologies that expedite the flow of patients through their practices, optimize the daily workflow of physicians and nurses, and reduce wait times throughout our healthcare system.
For example, a physician in a private practice might have to ask a clinical assistant to find a document that could readily be accessed using a PoC terminal. A nurse who would normally have to return to her shared desk and wait for a desktop computer to become available could instead use a mobile PoC terminal to create documentation at the bedside. A doctor who might have to walk for ten minutes to the imaging department to collect x-ray results for a patient could access them along with the patient’s medical data through a stationary PoC terminal right at the patient bedside, reducing overall wait time for the patient and physician.
Free movement and sharing of information between healthcare professionals create efficiencies that speed up administering and receiving health care for everyone involved.
Reducing Clinical Errors with PoC Technology
Delays in face-to-face patient care and clinical documentation can lead to incorrect documentation and future errors in treatment. Poor or ineffective communication between patient care team members is also a frequent cause of medical errors, especially for the most vulnerable patients who are seeing multiple physicians at multiple locations.
The best way to reduce or eliminate these errors is to minimize the time between data collection and documentation for physicians and nurses using PoC technology that allows immediate, secure documentation of new patient data, and for that information to be readily shared with other members of the patient’s care team.
The Future of PoC Technology in Health Care
PoC technology has a bright future in the healthcare industry, thanks largely to the widespread digitization of healthcare records. As hospitals expand their hardware infrastructures to improve access to and use of EMRs, individual physicians and practices stand to benefit tremendously from using PoC Technology.
Physicians will make better decisions for patients, thanks to the immediate availability of the most up-to-date patient data. The proliferation of both fixed and mobile point-of-care systems throughout hospitals will improve documentation practices among nurses, freeing up their time to better focus on inpatient care tasks. We’ll see fewer errors and adverse events in our practices that result from easily preventable mishaps – things like contraindicated prescriptions that could easily be prevented if physicians could more readily access and share medical data with their patients.
PoC technology is the next logical step in the digitization of the healthcare industry. The implementation of electronic medical record keeping everywhere is making PoC technology more important than ever for hospitals and private practices that want to maintain a competitive edge in service delivery today – now is the best time to upgrade your patient care technologies and start reaping the benefits – for your practice, and for your patients.