Staying Ahead of the Curve

By Stephanie Blanchard, Digital Editor — November 26, 2013

Ranked as the number one cardiology hospital in the state of Georgia and among the top 5% in the nation for overall cardiac services, the NE Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) gets ahead of the problem when it comes to relaying critical information.

Cardiac arrest, if not treated, leads to death. It’s that simple. So there is literally no time to waste when an individual has a heart attack. Nor is there leeway for communication lags, and that’s where the effective use of mobile technology makes a big difference, by lowering complications and in some cases, actually saving someone’s life by having data readily available.

Before the advent of smartphones and collaboration tools, an ER relied on transmitting patient data verbally. That could result in incomplete information as it is passed from dispatch to ambulance crew to the emergency department to cardiology staff. Was a defibrillator used? Did the patient receive CPR prior to arrival?

“Very rapid decisions have to be made among a spectrum of collaborators,” said Jason Grady, Regional STEMI Coordinator, NGMC, in an interview with Mobile Enterprise. It is imperative that such info is accurate, or it makes it that much more difficult to choose the best course of treatment.

The Simple Solution
During a six-week selection process, NGMC reviewed various options with three primary requirements in mind. The solution needed to be cloud-based, so data could be accessed from anywhere. The information needed to be secure, in strict compliance with HIPAA. And third, the tool needed to be easy to use, so paramedics did not waste time filling out the online forms.

Jeff Clark, a nurse educator in NGMC’s critical care unit, was heavily involved in the selection process. He noted that several web-form options on the market were just not user friendly or easily accessible. Security was also a huge factor, a dealbreaker, actually, from the facility standpoint.

After careful review, the center decided on Smartsheet, an online collaboration tool where information is available from one secure repository, promoting both consistency and the ability for decisions to be made in real-time based on such information, in a split second.

A Familiar Draw
Banking on the appeal factor to drive rapid adoption, the center had the solution on display, right in the middle of heavy foot traffic, where medical personnel constantly pass. Having an iPad and user-friendly app just screaming for attention, had an immediate effect.

“We get it,” was the common consensus among staff who were then trained on forms and data collection. With everyone already familiar with the touchscreen interface, it wasn’t long before paramedics had the system down to seconds and cardiologists were using the solution on their corporate owned iPhones. (Smartsheet is also available for Android.)

“No technology is better than the people using it,” Grady commented, adding that once users are convinced a process is important, and works, they can actually find ways to make it better.

Going Forward
While the app is currently being used by cardiology, in no way does this limit use for other departments in the future, whether for strokes, trauma, pediatrics or a wide range of use cases. And because Smartsheet conforms to the way a business works, the solution is applicable to any vertical that requires collaboration.

Right now, however, the app has inadvertently solved the problem of chart abstracting - pulling clinical information from patient history and reviewing trends to improve the process.

Previously, when mined data was reviewed well after the patient left the facility, documentation was often incomplete, or the pertinent parties involved were unable to remember the details. Why is this important? Tracking data is used for benchmark compliance. A standard for heart attack patients, for example, is treatment within 90 minutes of reaching the hospital door. However, when it come to cardiac arrest specifically, there is an infinite amount of variables, making it harder to track data points to trends.

“We can now ask the specific questions that we need,” Grady said. Furthermore, by having just yes or no replies, it makes the results far likelier to be accurate, and enables the organization to make neccesary changes. One example: If analyzed data shows that a significant amount of patients survive after receiving CPR, the center can allocate more resources for community education. That is, increase the chances of survival for everyone, by promoting a specific technique.

This type of actionable insight wasn’t possible before, when information was minimally reported, or inconsistent. But mobile technology, and its associated solutions, is making it happen.

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