Friday, November 30, 2007

Electronic patient tracking technologies versus manual whiteboards

Technological vs. manual tracking of patients ...

"Proper design of computational tools is critical if they are to be used with success in patient-care settings, particularly in hospital emergency rooms, a field study conducted by researchers at the University at Buffalo and other institutions recently revealed.

Nationwide, electronic patient tracking technologies are replacing traditional, dry-erase patient status boards, according to the UB researchers, who conducted the study with colleagues at the University of Rochester and the University of Florida, Jacksonville.

The results were presented last month by the UB researchers at the annual meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

The researchers studied how new electronic patient-status boards were functioning in the emergency departments of two busy, university-affiliated hospitals.

Overall, the UB researchers found that the computational tracking systems tended to affect how health-care providers communicate information and track activities regarding patient care, which can cause providers to change the way they work.

The results provide an important case study of what can happen when new technologies are developed without sufficient understanding by designers of the nature of the work in which they will be used, according to Ann Bisantz, Ph.D., associate professor of industrial and systems engineering in the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and a co-investigator on the study.

"Research in human factors, the study of the interactions between humans and technology, has shown that in complex workplaces where safety is critical, such mismatches between the way practitioners work and the technologies that are supposed to support them can have unintended consequences, including inefficiencies and workarounds, where the technology demands that people change their work method," said Bisantz.

She noted that there were surface similarities between the manual patient-status whiteboards that emergency departments have traditionally used and the electronic ones that were installed.

But in observations, focus groups and interviews with nurses, physicians, secretaries, IT specialists and administrators, the UB researchers learned that the computerized systems were not designed to match all of the underlying functionality of the manual boards.

According to Bisantz, manual whiteboards perform a critical, central function for emergency departments, providing not just patient names and demographic information, but also a means for health-care workers to share information on patient complaints, vital signs, lab tests, consultations, dietary and allergy alerts, and notices about patient rooms that need to be cleaned."    (Continued via News-Medical.Net)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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