Paperless system aids doctors, nurses and patients

Saturday, August 28th 2004, 9:36 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The all-digital system at Oklahoma Heart Hospital isn't quite to the level of Dr. ``Bones'' McCoy's sick bay on ``Star Trek,'' but the paperless process has transformed patient rooms into futuristic pods.

No paper charts hang from hospital doors, no Post-It notes dot nurses stations, and if patients need immediate assistance, they get it whether the doctor is out of town or not.

Every bit of patient information from heartbeat to medicines is kept on an electronic chart.

Nurses can access the information from anywhere in the hospital and in the patient's room on a bedside computer station.

Doctors even have the ability to read a patient's chart and make orders from a home computer or a personal digital assistant.

``It's dramatically more efficient than the traditional way,'' said Dr. Dwayne Schmidt, a cardiologist at Oklahoma Heart Hospital in Oklahoma City.

``Patients survive longer and have fewer complications with a computerized system.''

The digital system is particularly useful for doctors such as Schmidt who travel throughout the state to work at small clinics.

The cardiologist was in Clinton this past week but had immediate access to patient records in Oklahoma City. If necessary, he could have ordered medicine for a patient or discussed a problem with a nurse while looking at the patient's information electronically.

The Oklahoma hospital is one of the first all-digital hospitals in the country.

The facility was built with the digital system, which costs less than retrofitting an existing hospital such as nearby Mercy Health Center.

The computers have attracted doctors, and more importantly nurses, who relish the extra time a paperless system gives them.

``We have point-and-click instead of having to write long notes, which reduces the time it takes to chart and gives them more time with patients,'' said Tammy S. Hogue, a registered nurse at the heart hospital.

She said old paper forms would follow the patient around the facility and rely on handwritten notes and updates. The paper process created more opportunity for mistakes and made charts more difficult to read, she said.

The digital charts begin when a patient checks in. The information is immediately available to nurses and doctors who traditionally would have to wait until the patient arrived in surgery or on their floor to read the data.

Karolyn Holden, a critical-care nurse, said she is able to chart a procedure in the patient's room. Any updates to the chart pop up first on the screen when she accesses it.

Each room is equipped with a flat-screen monitor and keyboard attached to the end of an arm. The arm allows nurses to chart from different areas in the room and show patients anything from x-rays to MRI results.

Holden said nurses and cardiologists also can show patients video from their catheter procedures on the computer screen.

``I can look at information at the same time as doctors and lab techs. I'm up-to-date on things,'' Holden said. ``At another hospital, I had to wait three hours.''

The paperless system has been so well-received, nurses said if they ever leave Oklahoma, they will look for a digital hospital.

``You don't have a lot of stressed, angry nurses walking into the room,'' Holden said.