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Platinum Products & Services Guide (PDF opens in a new window)

January 31, 2011
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When President Barak Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law last March, 2010 became a watershed year for the healthcare industry. Since that time, many CIOs, policy leaders, and industry observers have tried to gauge its potential impact, and what the industry will need to accomplish within the next five to 10 years to meet the legislative goals. Although some of the new law's impact on health IT development may be indirect, its cost-saving assumptions will affect administration, accountability, and quality measurement. And newly introduced products and services will need to focus on these areas.

As part of this special Platinum Products & Services Guide, Healthcare Informatics provides a perspective on the trends and legislation of the past three years that will affect the development of new IT products and services and how they will be adopted and used across various types of healthcare organizations. The topics covered here span five general categories: clinical information systems, financial systems, administrative systems, wireless technologies, and imaging/PACS IT.


Healthcare Provider Organizations Seek More Workflow Capabilities

The term “clinical workflow” refers to the tasks and processes (both care and business-related) in which organizations engage to deliver healthcare to patients. As technology advances, there are increased opportunities for many of the steps involved in clinical workflow to be digitized. Because some tasks lend themselves more easily to IT solutions than others, it is interesting to see what methods healthcare organizations are using to manage their data, and to get their thoughts on the IT solutions they are considering implementing in the future.

In 2007, key survey findings reported in a

Healthcare Informatics Research Report, “Optimizing Clinical Workflows: Technology Trends to Improve Patient Care,” indicated that despite a fair amount of satisfaction with the management of clinical data, care provider organizations were not allowing that satisfaction to keep them from implementing improvements when and where they could. Even today, as technology advances to provide greater efficiency and ease of use in clinical data management applications, provider organizations are looking to upgrade despite adoption, cost, and integration challenges.

Optimal clinical workflow is important for streamlining the care delivery process in any healthcare provider organization, but it is especially important in acute care settings where there is more unpredictability and a potential for increased medical errors and heightened expenses. Efficient clinical workflow can enable hospitals to deliver high-quality care while reducing unnecessary costs, and most important, a well-constructed and tested system can reduce medical errors.

Clinical Workflow Capabilities Most Desired in the Future (In Order of Importance)

  • E-prescribing

  • Portable EHRs

  • Patient Web-access to hospital services

  • Bedside/test room data capture

  • Biometric access to system (facial, fingerprint, voice recognition)

  • Hand-held scanning

  • Web-based sharing among different platforms

  • Coded problem lists

  • Universal patient IDs

  • National data sharing network for electronic patient records

  • Standardized medical vocabulary

  • “Smart” patient monitoring devices

  • Remote patient monitoring

  • Electronic Medication Administration
    Record (eMAR)

  • Smart cards

  • Convergent communications devices

  • Podcasts for patient information

Source: “Optimizing Clinical Workflows: Technology Trends to Improve Patient Care,” Healthcare Informatics Research Report.

Among other key findings in the report:

  • Care provider respondents stated high satisfaction within their organization with current data management practices. However, they still indicated that their organizations were considering improvements in that area.

  • Overall, care providers indicated that they were relying almost equally on electronic/digital and paper/hard copy systems for patient and practitioner data managements. Respondents stated that their organizations depended more on electronic digital methods, however, when handling administrative data.

  • Respondents from acute and non-acute care facilities declared that they were most often considering the adoption of electronic/digital systems to assist with practitioner-related data. Managed care organizations were more often considering electronic improvements in the management of patient data.

  • The majority of care providers stated that they accessed clinical data using seven or more separate applications with multiple sign-ons for access security. Non-acute care organizations used only one to two applications to access clinical data.

  • A large number of respondents from provider organizations indicated that a desire to reduce medical errors lay behind their organizations' efforts to improve access to clinical data.

  • Respondents indicated that their organizations were making these desired improvements, mainly in the access of patient data for acute care organizations and outpatient/clinic physician practice tasks for non-acute and managed care organizations.1