“One of the issues we’re struggling with is how to achieve the best sign-out possible,” with up to four hospitalists on the day shift checking out and handing over patient responsibilities to the night shift, Dr. Pezzani says. For her, the ideal sign-out is face to face because it permits asking questions and reading nonverbal cues about how sick the patients really are. However, the logistics of multiple physicians and patients makes this ideal difficult to achieve.
Second best (if all group members used a Palm Pilot), would be to send sign-outs via text messaging—although that would also present logistical challenges. “Texting is easier,” she says. “You know who is sending the message. We could beam the written sign-out to each other in a matter of seconds, making it quick and easy. Furthermore, any day-to-day changes on a specific patient would be easy to amend and easy to send. It’s also a quick way to let a colleague know, ‘I need you right now!’ ”
The hospitalists at El Camino use voicemail to record sign-outs. But these messages can take a long time to record and play back, multiplied by the four physicians signing out. “Ideally, there would be a different voice mail for every patient, so I wouldn’t have to listen to patients A, B, C, D, and E to get to the pertinent information about patient F, who is crashing upstairs,” she says. Dr. Pezzani’s group is still exploring how to balance these considerations.
She says her hospitalist group is tight-knit and collaborative. “We leave our cell phones on all the time and answer each other’s calls after hours,” she says. “For example, I’m now on vacation with my family in San Diego and I have gotten at least two calls a day from my partners, either business related, or something like: ‘Do you remember that patient you admitted? Can you give me some information on them?’”
The Wired Hospital
Dr. Cucina is excited about the extra large, easy-to-grip handle on the 3-lb. Motion Computing C5 portable PC that UCSF hospitalists are field-testing. He’s also intrigued by the ever-expanding opportunities for interfacing with the hospital’s technology.
In August he gave a tour of Unit 13L at UCSF’s Moffitt/Long Hospital, a new ward that opened in June and is being used as a technology demonstration site.
The 32-bed unit has a narrow corridor lined with 10 computer workstations for the nurses. All 10 are in use. In an adjacent cubicle, several physicians are typing on their laptops.
On the unit, portable vital signs monitors are attached to rolling stands that also have docking ports for the laptops, offering real-time point-of-care acquisition of vital-signs data directly into the hospital’s medical record.
A nurse or physician can grab the big-handled Tablet PC and run to another room while remaining connected to the patient’s vital signs. The docking ports in patients’ rooms are also linked to a 37-inch, high-definition television. “A clinician can show the patient radiographic studies here or bring up interactive patient education programs,” he explains.