February 15, 2008

Tech options growing for patients, care teams

Featured Image

Pagers such as this will soon be used in clinics at Vanderbilt Health at One Hundred Oaks to send messages to patients in the waiting rooms. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Tech options growing for patients, care teams

Vanderbilt Medical Group is readying a range of electronic communication and network computer solutions that will add convenience for patients and help clinicians and staff work more efficiently.

“In our daily lives we're all increasingly moving away from letters and toward e-mail, away from phone conversations and toward messaging, and to the extent that we're able to continue to bring more of this technology appropriately to bear on clinic visits and clinic workflow, we stand to improve further both the experience of our patients and the efficiency of our operation,” said C. Wright Pinson, M.D., M.B.A., associate vice chancellor for Clinical Affairs and chief medical officer.

“These innovations will allow greater flexibility and time savings for patients, clinicians and staff,” said project leader Laura Montgomery, VMG's director of administrative operations.

Implementation will begin in May for the 16 clinics that will move later this year to Vanderbilt Health at One Hundred Oaks, the 440,000-square-foot campus extension off I-65 four miles south of downtown Nashville. The rest of VMG will begin using the new technology by January 2009.

Among the new services:

• Arriving patients will have the option of self-check-in at computerized kiosks within each clinic. Patients will complete consent and privacy forms electronically and use a credit or debit card to authorize any co-payment.

• In a convenience and privacy upgrade, patients will receive pagers upon check-in.

The pagers support large-format messaging that's easy to read. Receptionists will no longer call out patient names in waiting areas. By pager, patients will be notified of any delay and will thus no longer need to restrict themselves to waiting areas.

• Network computer stations, installed in individual clinics and in central areas, will be available expressly for patient use of the My Health at Vanderbilt Web site, with its Vanderbilt medical record and consumer health information.

• Prior to a clinic visit, patients will be able to use My Health at Vanderbilt to submit a patient history for inclusion in the electronic record.

• StarPanel, the electronic medical record and clinical workflow application, has a display that brings together key information about each visiting patient to form a highly useful, up-to-the-minute work queue.

This “whiteboard” will be used in the clinics both to aid workflow and to support analysis of patient wait times.

• Clinicians will stop using paper to order outpatient lab, radiology and neurodiagnostic tests, and will instead use electronic order forms and message baskets already built into StarPanel. Montgomery said it's likely that VMG will eventually move to a purpose-built outpatient order entry system.

• Video conferencing equipment will be installed in conference spaces on the Medical Center campus and at One Hundred Oaks to allow remote participation in ground rounds, division conferences, case evaluations and other meetings.