Kiss That Old Patient Logbook Goodbye

Cover Story: Information Technology Annual Report

For the staff at River Hills West Healthcare Center in Pewaukee, Wis., the most dreaded chore used to be the paperwork. Each of the center's 245 residents was receiving multiple doses of up to 15 different medications a day. Every time a doctor wrote a new order, it had to be transcribed by a secretary to a phone order, a pharmacy sheet, and several other patient forms. These all had to be checked by nurses and then entered into a three-ring binder. Each month, nurses and secretaries spent about 64 worker-hours transferring records to new logbooks.

Since January, however, the whole routine has changed for about half the center's staff. Instead of transcribing orders, nurses write the first three letters of a drug's name on the screen of an electronic notepad called a CompuScriber. A list of choices appears on the screen, along with boxes to check off for doses and time of day. Once these items are filled in, the device automatically zaps the information over a 900-Mhz wireless link to the River Hills network server. Records are instantly updated, thus eliminating about five stages of paperwork. "To say it's made life easier is an understatement," says Assistant Director of Nursing Martha Kath.

At first, nursing staff had mixed reactions to CompuScriber, which CompuPharm Inc., a division of GranCare Inc. in Atlanta, constructed from a Toshiba 486 notepad. But in just six months, two of the four units had made the switch at River Hills, which is run by GranCare. The remaining two should be online by summer's end. Next, they'll tap the system's vast data processing powers. It can prepare everything from cost tables to lists of patients receiving specific medications.

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