Public Release: 

Real time health records reduce clinical errors, enhance time with patients

Findings reported in Aug/Sept Canadian Journal of Anesthesiology

Queen's University

(Kingston, ON) -- Researchers at Queen's University and Kingston General Hospital (KGH) have developed a new, seamless system of electronically recording and tracking a patient's health record - before, during and after a hospital stay - that will reduce the chance of clinical errors, and make better use of limited hospital staff.

This is the first time in North America that all components of the wireless, mobile technology have been brought together into one, integrated system.

Combined with existing technology (hand-held computers, bar codes and wireless networks), the new software allows patients' "real time" health records to travel with them as they proceed through the hospital cycle of referral, assessment, pre-operative consultation, surgery, post-anesthetic care, recovery in the ward, and home follow-up.

"The traditional paper method approach to patient records results in widely varied and frequently inconsistent or inadequate information, which can lead to the wrong drugs being administered," says Dr. David Goldstein, a Queen's anesthesiologist and medical director of QUAIL (Queen's University Anesthesiology Informatics Laboratory), the KGH-based research group developing this system. Under the new computerized model - which has been applied in the peri-operative surgical and pain management areas - all the information needed by the medical team is amalgamated into the system, and is instantly accessible at the point of care.

Findings from the QUAIL team - led by Dr. Goldstein, technical director Michael J. Rimmer, and research director Dr. Elizabeth VanDenKerkhof - are reported in the August/September edition of the Canadian Journal of Anesthesiology, which can be accessed at: http://www.cja-jca.org/

"This highly innovative research program developed at Kingston General Hospital and Queen's University can only lead to major improvement in patient management," says Dr. Samuel Ludwin, Vice-President Research Development at KGH and Associate Dean (Research) at Queen's. "By making data accessibility safer and quicker, staff will improve care delivery and have more time to deal with patients," Dr. Ludwin adds.

Since each staff member's hand-held computer is connected to the hospital information service through a wireless access point (as well as to the Internet), new patient data is immediately available to anyone who needs it. "Having access to this 'real time' information reduces the chance of error and allows staff to deal effectively with a greater number of patients," Dr. Goldstein says. One study indicated that the use of hand-held computers in the post-operative acute pain management ward care reduced by 30 per cent the time required to see each patient, he notes.

The computerized model now being tested is for use by an Acute Pain Management Service (APMS), but researchers in other areas such as obstetrics/gynecology are exploring potential applications as well. After completing the model here, the research group hope to create a non-profit 'portable health intelligence network' linking hospital information systems regionally and across the country. This would facilitate patient transfers, especially in emergency situations, and make it easier for medical staff to share their expertise in the clinical and research areas.

From the beginning the project has been user-driven, with input from the nurses, doctors, pharmacists and technicians who will implement it, Dr. Goldstein emphasizes. "Our mandate is to make life easier for our staff, who have increasingly high workloads and expectations for evidence-based decision-making - but less time to do it."

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External funding has come from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Ontario Innovation Trust, the Bickell Foundation, HEALNet and the Claire Nelson Bequest fund. Other research partners are listed on the QUAIL webpage at: www.portablehealth.com/quail

Additional contact information:
Nancy Marrello, Queen's News & Media Services, 613-533-6000 ext. 74040

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