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IT strategy at Nationwide Children's Hospital sticks to basics

Allel Bernard | March 12, 2013
As Nationwide Children's Hospital opens a $430 million facility, the CIO for the Columbus, Ohio-based facility says her strategy focuses less on cutting-edge technology and more on improving the user experience for patients and physicians alike.

NCH also pushed vendors to customize the Intego Software nurse call system (the familiar bedside buttons) and Vocera paging system (which alert staff when a patient needs help) to work together more effectively. When a child's life is on the line, you don't want a code going out to the wrong team, explains Louis Nyktas, manager of NCH's converged networks services team.

The wireless call system at Nationwide Children's Hospital makes sure the closest staff member responds when a patient alert goes off.

"When an alarm goes off in a room-this person's oxygen level is dropping, this person's heart rate is going too fast-it can send out an alert directly to the person who needs to be involved," he says. "And if somebody doesn't respond within a certain period of time, it gets escalated to multiple areas." (Fortunately, the system works just as effectively when the patient wants more ice cream.)

The paging system uses a hands-free 802.11 badge with voice recognition capabilities that tell nurses and doctors where they are needed and what's going on. The idea is to keep staff closer to patients and farther from the nurses' station. Five hundred wireless access points (APs) support this system-and give families and patients a lot of bandwidth. In fact, Nyktas says, because people download so many videos, movies and other data, NCH carved out and dedicated a piece of the data center for just this purpose.

Many staffers, depending on their role, have a second badge showing where they are so they can be found quickly. But this serves a secondary function of telling the control center who is in a patient's room. "We've really improved the patient care from having the users get this information wherever they are," Nyktas says.

On top of this system, many docs still rely on pagers-after all, they are reliable-but Nyktas and his team are testing Vocera for the iPhone and Android so docs can have private conversations on the go.

IT is also responsible for a number of other tracking and safety systems now that used to fall under the purview of other departments. To cut down on mistakes, all meds and blood draws are barcoded, as is all the breast milk the hospital uses.

In addition, since NCH also manages the neo-natal intensive care units at central Ohio's two other main hospital networks, OhioHealth and Mt. Carmel, with nine facilities between them, NCH's IT department is ultimately responsible for safely feeding thousands of babies every day.

IT Staff Must Support Patient, Physician Needs

As mundane and ho-hum as barcodes and Wi-Fi sound, this tech is incredible important to patients given the medial errors it prevents, says James Ranjitsingh, clinical information systems manager. That's because as much of a patient's hospital visit as possible is tied to his or her electronic medical record from Epic Systems. Nationwide Children's Hospital has been a leader in adopting EMR technology, Zabawski says, noting that doctors haven't entered handwritten orders at NCH since the early 1990s.


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