South Peninsula Hospital unveiled a new $1.08 million computer system earlier this month, one that will increase medical safety by ensuring that hospital patients can only receive the medications prescribed by their doctors and fully document patient care.
Hospital Administrator Charlie Franz called it a "new era in patient care," and said the new information system integrates all aspects of documenting patient care.
Employing computers on wheels used by the patient-care staff, the system can document care, look up lab tests and X-ray results and verify that the correct medications are being administered. Bar code technology allows nurses to verify both the patient's identity and the type of medication being administered.
"If the system identifies a possible error, it will ask the nurse if she wants to proceed," Franz said. "Once the medicine is administered, the computer automatically records that it was given."
A touch screen allows a nurse to document other aspects of the patient's condition and treatment with a minimal amount of typing.
"Our hospital is the first in the state to put such a system in place, and we are very proud to take the lead in doing everything we can to improve the quality of care," Franz said.
According to Franz, in 1999, the Institute of Safe Medication Practice released a report on medication errors, estimating the number of patients who either died or suffered bad outcomes as a result of mistakes made in hospitals. Franz said a story in the Anchorage Daily News several months ago said most hospitals had ignored the recommendations of the institute.
"Even though our medication errors have been extremely low, our staff is always looking for ways to improve the quality of care we provide to our community and welcomed the institute's recommendations," Franz said. "We made plans and changed things we could. However, the most significant improvement, installing a new computer system to provide an automated check and balance on the administration of medications, took longer to put into place."
Following a detailed evaluation process, Computer Programs and Systems Inc., of Mobile, Ala., was selected as the vendor. The company provided on-site training, Franz said. The company's product "allowed us to integrate all aspects of care provided at South Peninsula Hospital, from Community Health Services to Acute Care Nursing to Long Term Care. So far, everything is working well and we are happy with our choice," Franz said.
The new system soon will allow physicians to review patient records from their offices or homes, improving communications about patient conditions and reactions to treatments. Doctors also will be able to enter their orders directly into the computer, further reducing the potential for errors in misinterpreting handwriting or incorrectly transcribing an order, Franz said.
Franz said that although the cost appears significant, the $1.08 million bid from Computer Programs and Systems Inc. was very competitive. Franz also said that most of the staff already has become very familiar with how it works. He said he was impressed with how quickly the staff took to the system.
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