The Tablet Revolution


In his June 3 blog post at CIO.com, Tom Kaneshige asks: “Can the iPad cure what ails us?” He goes on to describe new applications for iPads in Texas hospitals, including the remote monitoring of patients’ EKGs by nurses roaming the hospital.

“The big revolution in tablet computing for hospitalists, which has been right around the corner for the past decade, hasn’t quite arrived yet,” says Russ Cucina, MD, MS, hospitalist and medical director of information technology at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. “But I think we’re getting close, even though I’m not convinced that the iPad will be the vehicle.”

One of the hallmarks of such a technological revolution will be to free up hospitalists and other workers from computer work stations, where they are increasingly removed from face-to-face interactions. “Something gets lost in the name of efficiency,” Dr. Cucina says.

Hurdles to the tablet revolution include:

  • Short battery life and the lack of rechargeable batteries. “Doctors need to be on the floor longer than eight hours,” Dr. Cucina says.
  • Interacting with a tablet using thumbs and a touchscreen is fundamentally different from using a laptop, and applications should recognize the differences.
  • Wireless access to secure electronic health records (EHR) throughout the hospital. “This is more of a cost issue than a technical problem,” Dr. Cucina explains. “It’s also incumbent upon us as physicians to develop good security practices with our tablets.”
  • The skills to use the screen in the presence of others—in other words, What is the proper etiquette in front of care team members, patients, their families, etc.?

Hospitalists Look to Partner with New Quality Institute

Don’t be surprised if HM eventually gets a piece of the new Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

The center, funded through a $10 million gift from Johns Hopkins Medicine board of trustees chairman C. Michael Armstrong, will become the umbrella arm in charge of reducing preventable harm and improving healthcare quality.

Eric Howell, MD, SFHM, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University and director of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center’s HM division, already sees that as hospitalist turf and could easily see HM partnering with the new institute. Dr. Howell, who already has reached out to the institute’s head, checklist guru Peter Pronovost, MD, PhD, wrote in an email to The Hospitalist: “Hospitalists at Hopkins have a long tradition of exactly this type of work.”

Dr. Howell points to recent HM-driven research and initiatives to reduce “red alerts,” the term for ambulance diversions in the ICU, and streamlining the admission process to allow outpatient doctors to bypass the ED for patients for whom hospitalist admission is needed. At Howard County General Hospital, a suburb about 15 miles southwest of Baltimore, the HM group is running all rapid response team (RRT) events.

“In short,” Dr. Howell writes, “the Armstrong Institute will find hospitalists to be a willing partner.”

Hospitalists Must Prepare for Primary-Care Shortfalls

The Milwaukee-based American Society for Quality (ASQ) recently surveyed healthcare quality professionals about anticipated shortages of primary-care physicians (PCPs) and other medical staff, particularly as more Americans gain health insurance under the Accountable Care Act and Medicare). The trend is real, says Joseph Fortuna, MD, chair of ASQ’s Health Care Division, and hospitalists will face challenges in discharging patients who lack a defined PCP.

Survey respondents highlighted some strategies for dealing with the primary-care shortage, including the EHR for improving efficiency, teamwork, and checklists. Dr. Fortuna suggests HM groups:

  • Work with PCPs and federally qualified health centers to enhance integrated relationships and improve handoffs. Local public health departments will be important collaborators.
  • Define quality not just clinically, but also in terms of financial, operational, and cultural domains, using techniques of change management, root cause analysis, and other quality tools.
  • Be involved in patient-centered medical homes as “catalysts, coordinators, and facilitators.”

HM Group Redesigns Workflow to Comply with ACGME Rules and Improve Continuity

As academic HM groups react to the new Accreditation Council for Graduation Medical Education (ACGME) guidelines on how long residents can work, they might want to keep the Toyota Production System (TPS) in mind.

Diana Mancini, MD, a hospitalist at Denver Health Medical Center and associate program director of the University of Colorado Internal Medicine Residency, presented data in the Research, Innovations, and Clinical Vignettes competition at HM11 that showed how the use of continuous workflow and standardized tasks—hallmarks of TPS—helped redesign the medicine ward system to both comply with the ACGME rules and improve continuity of care.

The project replaced the traditional call system, and its corresponding floats and moonlighters, with a shift system comprised of two teams of six interns and three residents. At night, one intern worked a “continuity shift.” Using administrative data, Dr. Mancini and colleagues projected that 89% of patients admitted on a continuity shift would be discharged by the end of that intern’s five consecutive shifts. And, by dividing admissions among two teams, the “bolus” effect was halved, she says.

“The continuity shift is crucial for both the patient safety/continuity and educational content/value for the housestaff,” Dr. Mancini wrote in an email. “With the new work hours coming ... the hours would have to be adjusted … but the continuity could most certainly be maintained.”

Feds Delay Deadline for Stage 2 “Meaningful Use” Application Process

If your HM group is among the first cohort that reaches Stage 1 attestation this year for meaningful use of electronic health records (EHR), you may get more time to reach Stage 2. The federal Health Information Technology (HIT) policy committee has voted for a 12-month delay in implementing the criteria for that second stage, agreeing with those who say the current deadline of October 2013 “poses a nearly insurmountable timing challenge.”

The HIT is pushing to delay the deadline until 2014, which would mean providers have three years to verify that they have met Stage 1 meaningful use requirements, according to Government HealthIT. A cadre of medical trade groups, led by the AMA, is now pushing the Department of Health and Human Services to adopt the new timeline.

The ultimate decision rests with the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS).

By the numbers

Number of months without a central-line-associated bloodstream infection (BSI) on the eight-bed ICU at Beaufort Memorial Hospital, a 197-bed community hospital in Beaufort, S.C.

The hospital, which had a higher rate of BSIs than the national average in 2005, created a team to reduce its BSIs, led by infection-prevention specialist Beverly Yoder, RN, and involving hospitalists. Beaufort joined the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s 100K Lives Campaign and the South Carolina Hospital Association’s Stop BSI Project.

The team implemented a central-line “bundle” of quality practices, then simplified the bundle and incorporated it into its EHR. The unit celebrated its 30-month achievement with a luncheon in June.

For information, contact critical-care director Diane Razo, RN, MSN, PCCN, at [email protected]. (For more information about central-line infection prevention, visit SHM's Resource Room (www.hospitalmedicine.org/resource)

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