When things go wrong,

By Matt Kelly  |  Posted 2006-04-10 Print this article Print

MetaVision comes to the rescue."> More important is how MetaVision works when a patients recovery goes wrong. When a troubling event happens, MetaVision alerts doctors in the control room to examine the patients file immediately. Those doctors can tap into a trove of historical information all tied in to MetaVision: medication records, X-ray images as far back as 1994, notes from previous admissions and more. If necessary, they can talk with nurses in the room via a two-way microphone.

"All this allows us to be very active in evaluating and reevaluating patients," Matchett said.

In a traditional ICU, patients might need to wait for critical-care doctors to reach them or search for past records. With MetaVision prompting immediate, extra attention for the sickest patients, Matchett said that Lehigh has been able to increase the number of patients going through the ICU (about 4,000 in the first 10 months of operation), which increases hospital revenue.

A study shows that doctors with electronic health records have access to more complete patient information. Click here to read more. The Advanced ICU is not cheap: Capital costs were $1.9 million, and operating costs run approximately $1.5 million annually, Matchett said. He also said he is confident that higher patient throughput still translates into cost savings for the hospital, although an exact number hasnt yet been tallied.

More important are the improved patient outcomes. Overall patient mortality fell from 16 percent in the third quarter of 2004 to 10 percent by the first quarter of 2005, Matchett said. And because nurses now have fewer paperwork chores, they have approximately 75 minutes more free time per 12-hour shift to devote to patient care. (Lehigh deliberately decided not to cut staff once its nurses had more free time, so as not to have a negative impact on patient care.)

And what about the added layer of distance between patient and doctor? Matchett insists that hospital visitors dont consider the technology a step toward more impersonal care. Rather, he said, both patients and families appreciate the system because they can always reach a doctor even in late hours, rather than wait (possibly for hours) for an attending physician to come by to follow up and answer questions.

Said Matchett: "Families very quickly adapt to this technology."

Matt Kelly is a freelance writer based in Somerville, Mass.

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