The implementation of mobile computing carts has revolutionized the healthcare industry over the last ten years, but not without creating controversy. Since regulators mandated that patient data be stored electronically and that healthcare providers show significant use of that data, mobile carts have enabled nurses, doctors, and other care providers to consult digitized patient records at the bedside.
Although adoption rates of electronic medical records are at or above 95% in hospitals in the United States, the rate of adoption for private practices hovers around 60%, indicating that although hospitals are quick to invest in compliance, independent private doctors may still be reluctant, citing disruptions in clinical workflow as a primary concern.
Clinical workflow refers to the set of tasks, grouped chronologically into processes, and the set of people and resources that your healthcare facility uses to accomplish its goals. The primary goal of a healthcare facility is to provide treatment to patients, and it organizes its staff, infrastructure, and policies to achieve this. The truth is that any new technology that's introduced to the healthcare environment disrupts workflow - but that's kind of the point, right?
Without the correct workflow procedures in place, it's impossible to fully leverage new technologies and you'll be left doing things the old-fashioned way. That's fine if you like to be less efficient and less profitable than your competitors because the reality is that mobile carts unlock a lot of potential for enhancing clinical workflow - when used correctly. This article looks at some best practices for improving your clinical workflow with mobile carts.
Mobile Computers Proven Superior to Tablet Devices
Since the EMR mandate, care providers have implemented a variety of solutions meant to enable access to patient records at the patient's bedside. Some physicians are using tablets or other handheld devices as a means of accessing patient data, but this likely isn't the best approach. Tablet devices claim to have a long battery life, but with consistent usage on an appropriate brightness, they almost always prove less reliable than advertised when put to the test. Mobile carts work with a number of power solutions that can offer nearly 100% up-time.
Another major drawback is data input - without a full-sized keyboard, it becomes difficult or tedious to record meaningful volumes of patient notes. Some physicians develop their own shorthand notation system, but this may make the records confusing or illegible for another care provider in the future. Mobile carts with computer keyboards are both faster and more dependable than tablets when it comes to accurately recording patient data.
Mobile Carts Combine with Swappable Batteries
When mobile computer carts first came into widespread use, one of the major barriers to their adoption was battery life. While it made sense to take a work station with you to the patient's bedside, the stations would need to recharge, sometimes in the middle of a patient interaction. This created major workflow interruptions and led to unanticipated downtime that left care providers behind schedule.
Today, hot swappable batteries are a logical and simple solution to battery life issues. These power systems allow healthcare providers to quickly swap out charged batteries without having to turn off their computers or plug them in. Charging stations for these batteries are often equipped with UV lights that disinfect them as they charge, complementing your facility's existing infection prevention measures.
Mobile Computer Carts Support Meaningful Use of EMRs
Mobile carts are the most important equipment for demonstrating meaningful use of electronic health records, as required by the EHR mandate. The meaningful use requirements have been partitioned into three stages, which respectively promote data capturing and sharing, advancing clinical processes, and improving outcomes for patients and care providers.
Physicians are expected to incorporate electronic health records into the following clinical processes:
- Recording and charting height, weight, blood pressure, and BMI for all patients, and plotting growth charts for children aged 2-20.
- Recording demographic information, such as preferred language, gender, race, ethnicity, and date of birth of all patients.
- Maintaining active medication and medication allergy lists for patients in electronic form.
- Recording smoking status for patients aged 13 years and older.
- Creating clinical summaries for each patient on a per-visit basis.
- Generating and transmitting permissible prescriptions electronically (eRx).
Mobile computer carts are the best means of facilitating these new workflow requirements because they allow nurses and physicians to access electronic medical records from the examination room, enabling on-the-spot recording of all important information. Patient data and history can readily be updated in the presence of the patient, and physicians at the bedside can immediately access medical history information for patients in order to identify trends, develop treatment plans, and prescribe medication.
The presence of a mobile computer cart in the examination room or at the patient's bedside means that your healthcare providers have all of the tools they need to optimize their delivery of care while meeting the meaningful use requirements set forth in the EMR mandate.
Mobile Carts Work Modularly With Your Most Important Clinical Tools
Mobile computing is the central aspect of the mobile cart revolution, but it's not the only important point. Mobile carts in the healthcare space are modular, meaning that they can accommodate many different types of devices, peripherals, and storage. Every practice is different, and whether you're outfitting a mobile cart with diagnostic instruments, or immunization supplies for flu season, there's a way to take advantage.
Today, all leading mobile cart manufacturers make carts that can be customized with modular components to support various applications - 4-tier bin systems for medication dispensing, a premium camera with dual-stream 60fps video for telemedicine, and even fun decals for the pediatrics department. Versatile customization options mean that you can streamline a variety of processes at your facility with the mobile cart as your primary bedside device.
Optimizing clinical workflow is a challenge for each healthcare facility, but it's important to see that challenge as an opportunity to do things better. It's normal to see your workflow patterns disrupted by the introduction of new technology, but enhanced workflows mean better, faster patient care and greater reimbursements for your healthcare facility or practice. If you haven't yet made the switch, mobile carts could be the technology solution that empowers your healthcare team to achieve more. With the best practices in place, and proper training, there's no reason why mobile carts can't be a game-changing addition to your facility.