At St. Joseph's Healthcare System there are many areas where advanced IT is making a positive impact: dispensing of medication, conversion from paper-based charts to electronic, long-distance consulting (telemedicine), and – of course – billing are just a few of the procedures that St. Joseph's has upgraded recently.
But with so many priorities, knowing where to focus their energies first is an important part of the job for St. Joseph's. "When it impacts patient safety, that's when an IT solution goes to the top of the list," Cavanagh explains. "When it impacts our ability to become economically sustainable is our next consideration. From there, we pick and choose what will be best for the patient and the organization overall, as we move towards a more patient-driven methodology for healthcare. As a result, we're becoming more proactive about identifying specific conditions and symptoms – rather than trying to react to things down the line."
As an example, Cavanagh points to SJRMC's new medication administration system, which has introduced a highly effective new computerized system of bedside barcoding to the medical center. Patients wear a barcoded wristband that nurses scan along with barcodes on the medication. The computer matches the medication order with the medicine, checks the patient database to ensure the dose is appropriate for the patient, confirms that there are no allergies or other medications that could cause an adverse reaction, and raises alerts if there are any discrepancies. These additional safety checks ensure that medication errors or reactions are minimized.
Successful systems such as the bedside barcodes can only be implemented as the result of ongoing communication between St. Joseph's various personnel, who meet on a regular basis to hone new IT solutions. "We've got a very collaborative environment," confirms Cavanagh. "There are strong partnerships between our physicians, nurses, and ancillary departments (pharmacy, imaging, lab, etc.). St. Joseph's Healthcare System has an active IT steering committee, and our Executive team meets on a weekly basis to stay on top of the priorities and challenges within the system, which allows me to be at the ready when IT solutions are needed."
The ultimate goal is to enable patients to have an informed voice in IT planning, as well. "We see that coming down the line," Cavanagh says. "For example, we're developing a patient portal that streamlines patients' access to their health record information, in much the same way that you can book a flight or manage a trip from any Web-connected device in the world. When patients can access more information online, and more easily, we believe they'll get increasingly engaged in their own care."
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