Touch Screens Ease Hospital's Charting Pains
Touch-screen workstations mounted in critical-care units are the right prescription for Wadley Regional Medical Center's space requirements.
Meditech, the hospital's information system, impacts every department, including accounting, nursing, laboratory and patient records. "It is the ‘meat and potatoes' of the hospital's operations," notes Eggen. Adding PCs in patient-care areas would enable the hospital to maximize the Meditech system's online documentation capabilities.
Patients from the Texarkana area, as well as from the surrounding states of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, use Wadley Regional Medical Center's services. These services include cancer treatment, diagnostic testing, emergency services and a prenatal clinic. The 407-bed hospital has 1,200 employees. Wadley Regional Medical Center is a locally owned, not-for-profit hospital.
Wireless PCs Too Bulky
Eggen experimented with one solution portable, wireless PCs on rolling carts. "Hospital staffers push the carts from room to room. While the PCs are adequate for the job, the carts are cumbersome within the critical-care areas," says Eggen. "The hospital currently uses 200 PCs on carts in noncritical-care units."
Laptop computers were considered as another solution. "Laptop computers, because of their various keyboard configurations, were found to be difficult for the users of the Meditech system," says Eggen.
It was while attempting to expand bedside documentation in crowded operating-room areas that Eggen hit upon a solution. "It was then that we considered using touch-screen workstations," says Eggen.
Evaluating Touch-Screen Workstations
Eggen evaluated touch-screen workstations from two different vendors. Staff input was an important part of the selection process. "We set up one workstation in a common area of the hospital. The workstation was configured with the Windows 95 operating system and the Meditech client software. Employees were encouraged to spend time trying it," says Eggen. "Feedback on the first workstation was negative. In particular, the on-screen menu buttons were too small." A second workstation, this one from Crystal Visions, was also configured and then tested by staff. This workstation was readily accepted. "The larger screen was one feature the staff liked," says Eggen. "The cost of the touch-screen workstations was comparable to the cost of the wireless PCs being rolled around on carts. And, since they were only three-inches thick, the workstations fit our space requirements," says Eggen.
Wadley first purchased 15 Falcon touch-screen workstations from Crystal Visions. Each workstation features a 15-inch active-matrix, color, liquid crystal display (LCD) and a Pentium 200 MMX processor. "The workstations were mounted to the wall next to each bed in the pre- and post-op units. Crystal Visions designed the mounting brackets for us," explains Eggen. "Employees quickly adapted to the touch screens and required very little training." An additional 24 Vision touch-screen displays were wall-mounted in Wadley's recently created respiratory-care unit.
In addition to the Falcon workstations, Eggen purchased Compaq servers, HP laser printers with JetDirect network cards, and APC uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs). "We use the Falcon workstations as dumb terminals with all of the processing done by the Meditech system. Each workstation has a UPS attached to it," explains Eggen. The medical staff can print information to almost any printer on the network and to centralized locations on each floor.
Hospital Plans To Add Imaging
Wadley Regional Medical Center used in-house IT staff for the installation. "We installed Ethernet cable and power supply ahead of time. Then we simply configured and installed the touch-screen workstations," explains Eggen. "Standard keyboards were included with each workstation because the Meditech system ‘maps' certain keys for specialized functions. However, future upgrades of the Meditech software and other hospital systems will enable us to take full advantage of touch-screen operations."
According to Eggen, the hospital plans to add 32 touch-screen workstations to its three intensive- care units (medical, surgical and neuro-surgical ICUs). Eggen predicts more uses for touch screens in the hospital. For example, touch-screen kiosks running a Web browser would give employees and visitors access to Wadley Regional Medical Center's intranet. The hospital's cafeteria can also use touch-screen monitors at the point of sale. Eggen is considering using other technology as well. "An optical archiving and imaging system is also being considered for management of patient records," says Eggen.
When it comes to Wadley Regional Medical Center's use of technology, it seems touch screens are only the beginning.