How Medical Computer Carts Increase Efficiency and Reduce Errors
In the medical industry, computer carts are revolutionizing the way that healthcare professionals deliver care to their patients. From bringing essential supplies from room- to-room to accessing crucial medical records and test results with the patient by your side, medical computer carts are increasing efficiency and decreasing costly errors.
Inefficiency with stationary computer systems
According to a study conducted and published in 2015, the majority of time spent by nurses and other healthcare professionals in a hospital setting during their shift is at the computer, entering patient data and accessing records at a central nurses station. The length of time spent performing these tasks was significantly affected by various interruptions, including phone calls and patient requests.
Nurses also often find themselves "waiting their turn" at the limited number of computers found behind the nurses station desk. Many nurses have to share these computers with doctors, leading to a backlog of patient record data that must be entered.
The recommendation as a result of this study was that more of the data entry process should happen in patient rooms. This allows one-on-one discussion between the nurse and the patient about important health information and limits the number of interruptions during this data entry process
Maximize patient time
When electronic health records (EHR) are not available on a medical laptop cart, nurses and doctors spend a lot of time during their shifts trying to find the time to sit down and enter all their patient data. This means that most of the time they are not with patients, they are sitting down and entering information into a computer.
Most patients will likely recognize that if a nurse or doctor knows they have hours of data entry on their task list, they are less likely to be able to spend quality time with them. Nurses and doctors who can minimize the time spent entering backlogs of data will find themselves able to maximize the time with their patients.
For many healthcare professionals, the opportunity to get to know a patient and help them is one of the reasons they entered the healthcare field. Studies have shown that the more time a healthcare provider can spend with their patients, the greater the likelihood that the patient will feel they have received quality care.
This time spent entering data with the patients directly allows healthcare staff to utilize their shift time more efficiently and work with patients directly for longer periods. An added benefit to using mobile computer carts is that many nurses no longer have to spend an hour or more after their shift ends simply entering patient data.
Medical supply carts
The advantages of adding medical carts on wheels are not just limited to electronic health records. Many other kinds of medical carts, including supply carts, are utilized throughout the healthcare setting to help increase efficiency for medical staff.
Many hospitals and doctors' offices utilize a medical supply cart to aid in their delivery of quality patient care. These supply carts can be customized to meet the needs of the healthcare environment, and often have ample storage drawers for large and small items. Doctors and nurses can store supplies such as bandages, gloves, lab supplies, and other items.
Their mobility makes them easy to use and access in the patient room, and they allow nurses and doctors to transport these supplies without having to leave the patient alone to retrieve items necessary for care. This increases direct, quality time between the patient and their healthcare professional.
Medical crash carts
Medical crash carts and hospital carts are also vital to increasing quality care for patients, especially in emergencies. Their mobility provides medical teams the ability to work on the patient from any angle.
Many of the drawers on these carts are easily labeled or color-coded for various hospital emergency code calls. This increases efficiency in high-stress situations and cuts down on time spent searching for crucial supplies.
Secure medication carts
One of the primary concerns many healthcare providers have with their mobile carts is the need for security. Medication carts are one of the primary concerns, as their mobility through halls and patient rooms can make them a target.
Luckily, medication carts and other medical computer carts come equipped with locking drawers. These drawers can be manual key locks or keyless computer entry. Both methods provide peace of mind for medical professionals, who can be assured that the medications in the cart will remain secure wherever they go.
The ability of a doctor or nurse to access these medications without having to leave the patient's room also increases security and lessens the risk of dosing errors. With all of the information right there on the computer screen, nurses and doctors can double-check the medication name and dosage before administering it to the patient.
Many healthcare providers have custom carts designed to meet the needs of their unique work environment. Some of these customizations include dual-display carts, camera carts, and PACS viewing stations with extended battery life.
For offices using tablets or personal laptop computers, there are simple rounding carts that will keep these devices powered for medical professionals throughout the building.
Other medical carts
Other medical rolling carts come equipped with printers, magnetic card readers, and scanners for verifying patient information, or IV poles to start medications right by the patient's bedside. This also increases efficiency and reduces costly or dangerous errors.
Medical carts are designed to be incredibly mobile, rolling easily over tile or carpeting, and able to maneuver through crowded hallways. Many models are lightweight and adjustable for ease of use for multiple providers to utilize.
In offices or hospitals with small patient rooms, these medical carts are easy to fit into tight spaces and can be taken by medical professionals wherever they need to go.
In the early days of medical computer carts, long-lasting battery power was often a concern. Battery life on these carts would last just a few hours. Oncoming nurses would receive carts with nearly-drained batteries, and they would be forced to find a place to plug them in to charge, recreating many of the issues found at the stationary nurses station.
Now, most computer cart batteries last 6-10 hours, and lightweight hot swap battery packs allow for a quick change to keep the cart powered for a full shift.
Many carts also come equipped with battery indicator lights to notify healthcare providers when their batteries are low. This helps providers prepare to switch out the battery with plenty of time to spare. They don't have to worry about losing their work on the EHR system, or hurriedly searching for a place to plug in the cart in the middle of working with a patient.
One of the primary issues with backlogs of patient data entry is that sometimes nurses and doctors are entering crucial information hours after they've met with the patient. If their notes are incomplete, or if they have seen several patients, information may get mixed up.
Another problem healthcare professionals face is fatigue at the end of a long shift, which can also contribute to data entry errors.
When mobile medical laptop carts are in use, doctors and nurses can enter data with the patient by their side. This provides time for the doctor or nurse to verify information, correct unclear handwriting on questionnaires, enter medication and allergy information, and check test results.
Reduction of errors is a safety priority
According to a 2009 case study commentary by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, data entry errors can cause patients extreme mental and emotional anguish. An incorrect diagnosis of three separate areas of cancer, in the case study, led to the patient's doctor recommending end-of-life hospice care. Luckily, the error was caught later that day, but the distress of being told he was going to die was a traumatizing experience for the patient and embarrassing for his doctor.
Reducing data entry errors, along with test result errors, is essential to increasing quality patient care. Errors in the computer system can lead to misdiagnoses, wrong medications being prescribed, and other disastrous outcomes.
In some cases, these errors can lead to extreme distress in the patient, especially if they are misdiagnosed. In other cases, these errors can mean the difference between life or death, especially if medication allergies are not entered correctly.
Reduction of errors is a fiscal priority
On average, medical errors cost between 17-30 billion dollars every year. Included in these costs are adverse reactions and events from medication and procedural errors. The majority of this cost is wrapped up in the ensuing litigation that results from patients and families who pursue legal action for their pain and suffering.
There are also many manpower hours put into the correction of these errors, including investigations, additional surgeries and procedures, and more data entry time.
Reducing errors in the medical workplace should be a priority for all healthcare providers. Patients, doctors, and nurses will benefit greatly from all steps taken by hospitals and offices to make sure that costly errors don't happen in the first place.
Medical carts reduce errors
One of the best ways to ensure more accuracy is to increase the use of medical computer carts where most tasks can be performed in one location with the patient available for verification.
With medical carts on wheels, doctors and nurses can enter and access patient information while the patient is present, which reduces the chance of errors significantly. Many of these EHR systems can access various departments and deliver reports from other tests, such as radiology or phlebotomy labs. Doctors and nurses can enter data while cross-referencing results.
Also, doctors are often able to send prescription information directly to the pharmacy. This reduces errors and wait time for patients. Some estimates say that 7,000 people die each year from illegible doctor handwriting. This issue is eliminated when a doctor can send prescription information electronically to pharmacists.
Making patient care more meaningful
One of the most visible benefits of having medical information on-hand in a patient's room is the doctor's ability to interpret test results and other data in a more meaningful way.
With the patient present, the provider can take other factors into their interpretation of information, including how the patient is feeling, when their medical issues worsen, and other factors that may be contributing to their concerns. Doctors will likely be better able to see a pattern when they can add in the patient's own experiences, which can lead to earlier and more accurate diagnoses and treatments.
Meaningful interpretation of patient data increases the quality of patient care and patient satisfaction. It also increases the likelihood of long-term success of treatment.
The future of mobile medical carts
When mobile medical carts were first introduced into the healthcare setting, they were met with some resistance by healthcare professionals. Much of this was due to a lack of easy mobility and insufficient battery charge times.
Over the years, healthcare provider confidence in mobile medical carts has increased, and now medical rolling carts can be found in almost every hospital and doctor's office. Doctors and nurses have found that these carts are incredibly convenient and reduce time spent retrieving items, checking information, and entering data.
Now, medical carts are being utilized to deliver one-on-one telemedicine care between patients and specialists remotely. Patients can video chat with specialists who may not be available in their hospital or state. The opinions of these specialists are crucial to addressing the patients' needs and concerns and leads to better decision making for the course of the patient's care.
Mobile medical carts are also automating a lot of the monitoring tasks that had to be checked physically by nurses and nursing assistants. This data is sent to the nurses on their mobile medical laptop cart, which allows them to provide better quality care for multiple patients.
The healthcare industry has been revolutionized by the rollout of medical computer carts across the country. It has increased quality patient care for healthcare providers while reducing time and errors on data entry and patient health information. The possibilities for these carts are endless. These carts will likely be leaders in medical technology for the future of our healthcare system.