North Shore Hospital nursing notes now computerized

With some prompting by way of Medicare incentives, Cook 
County North Shore Hospital is moving toward keeping all of its 
medical orders and nursing notes on computer.  At the March 22, 2012 
hospital board meeting, RN Pam Faye demonstrated how computerization 
could prevent mistakes from happening.
Medications are now individually packaged with bar codes to identify 
them.  When a nurse enters a hospital room to dispense a medication, 
he or she scans the bar code on the medication and the bar code on the 
patient’s wristband and waits for confirmation that this is the right 
medication before opening the package and dispensing it.
A computer program prompts nurses to go through a list of observations 
to note on patient charts, standardizing the language of the notes and 
helping nurses to make sure they have checked everything they should 
be checking.
Nurses went online with the new program in March, and doctors will be 
using the system starting next January.
If computers go down, an in-house server that backs up data every 12 
hours can be accessed, and medication cabinets can be unlocked if 
everything goes down, Faye said.
“The nurses have been very supportive,” Faye said, “and the 
doctors coming on board are being supportive. …It’s not easy!”
The new system requires staff to learn how to do things differently 
from the way they were taught, Hospital Administrator Kimber Wraalstad 
said.
Are there any drawbacks to this?  Physician Sandra Stover said 
delivering patient care could be slowed during busy times if not 
enough computer workstations are available.  Some hospitals have 
computers in each room.  Right now, Stover said, nurses sometimes 
scribble data on scraps of paper and input it into the computer system 
later.  Having enough computers to go around would speed up care and 
assure more accurate documentation because the computer could be 
accessed when working with the patient, she said.
Administrator Wraalstad’s written report to the board states, “The 
Meditech Patient Care System Module (PCS) went ‘live’ on Tuesday, 
March 6, 2012.  Pam Faye and Chris Silence have spent the last six 
weeks training nursing staff to use this module.  The nursing staff 
also spent several weeks completing documentation on ‘test’ [not 
real] patients to develop familiarity with the software.
“While there were some bumps, the implementation of the module went 
fairly smoothly.  As occurs when learning new systems, the nurses have 
commented that they are slower in completing certain tasks.  With more 
use and familiarity, it is anticipated that speed and efficiency will 
increase.”
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act 
was signed into law in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and 
Reinvestment Act.  It requires health care providers to keep records 
in a way that is useful and efficient.  Meditech is the company that 
supplies the software being used to comply with the requirements of 
this legislation.