Successful emergency room automation is possible

Automation can work, you can do it on a department level, and that you can be happy with the results.

The case studies are starting to come in. The naysayers are wrong.

You can automate hospital operations and improve results. Even in the toughest environments, like the emergency room.

I spent a pleasant morning chatting with Sherry Alton, a registered nurse who is director of emergency services for Graham Hospital in Canton, Illinois.  She was touting her experience with T System, a Windows-based ER automation system produced in Dallas.

One point that jumped out at me was how the same company that automated Alton's E.R. makes paper templates. She confirmed to me that the hospital used the T-System paper system before moving to the computer. This helped reduce the learning curve.

Despite this it took a large team to get everyone trained:

T System brought on-site trainers and they came about two weeks before we went live. Everyone went through the training. We also had Web based training. The week of going live they brought a team in which included trainers who worked with us for three days.

T System integrates with a wide variety of hospital systems, including that of MediTech, the one Graham uses. This is also important. Best of breed solutions have to integrate.

Another important point is that nurses and doctors have different systems, attuned to their jobs, running on laptops or tablets. Doctors issue orders, and their software supports order codes as well as the hospital's standard order sets. Nurses do triage and hands-on care, and T System delivers results straight to a patient's doctor, with fax as one option.

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"That has reduced our paper use tremendously. It helps with coding and billing, it has diagnosis codes, I have reports at my fingertips I never had before."

None of this is an ad for T System, although I'm certain they will be happy to sell you something. It's more to show that automation can work, you can do it on a department level, and that you can be happy with the results.

Just remember to move slowly as well as deliberately. Demand to be shown how it works before you buy. Know that training is going to cost as much or more than the software.

And put the nurse in charge.