This story describes one hospital system's efforts at point of care workflow automation. They have decided on the adoption of Dell PDAs using MercuryMD software to access hospital information systems. The software provides data access (results reporting, electronic meds administration records (MAR), and reference data like drug dosages and interactions) over a wireless network. It seems they were going to trial various technologies - both software and hardware - but since their first trial went well...

initial pilot last spring of 10 nurses went so well hospital executives
decided to do a rollout to 256 nurses in the summer, [Theresa] Brodrick [R.N., vice president of patient services] says.
"For nurses who did not have a lot of tools or technology it has given
them the ability to pull up patient information at the bedside,"
Brodrick says.

The article goes on to state the many benefits of providing caregivers with wireless automation. Some of the challenges are also noted.

While the PDAs have been successful in intensive care units, Virtua West Jersey Hospital Voorhees is looking at different point-of-care technologies for other departments. "PDAs are not meant for all nurses," Brodrick says. "We're trying to take a look at all different types of devices."

Where to start? Point of care automation is considerable challenge because there are so many variables.. Three categories of data and vendors make up point of care systems, voice/messaging (nurse call, papers, over head paging, phones), medical devices (alarm notification from patient monitors, infusion pumps, ventilators), and clinical information systems (what Voorhees hospital is doing above). Different applications, different vendors, (at least for now) different devices.

The real struggle here is properly assessing needs, designing a system with a believable ROI, and charting a vendor selection and acquisition strategy that delivers long term benefits - all of which must be synced up with new and existing equipment, and care delivery strategies. Fun fun fun. If you're thinking about taking the plunge, give me a call.