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Design of patient tracking tools may have unintended consequences
Date:11/26/2007

between the manual patient-status whiteboards that emergency departments have traditionally used and the electronic ones that were installed.

But in observations, focus groups and interviews with nurses, physicians, secretaries, IT specialists and administrators, the UB researchers learned that the computerized systems were not designed to match all of the underlying functionality of the manual boards.

According to Bisantz, manual whiteboards perform a critical, central function for emergency departments, providing not just patient names and demographic information, but also a means for health-care workers to share information on patient complaints, vital signs, lab tests, consultations, dietary and allergy alerts, and notices about patient rooms that need to be cleaned.

The results revealed that the innate flexibility of the manual whiteboard allowed health-care providers and other emergency department staff to use it to communicate with one another.

The manual whiteboard allows flexibility in tracking patients, Bisantz said. For example, maybe the first time the provider sees a patient, she initials the name on the whiteboard, then the next time she circles the initials, then when the patient is discharged, she might put an x in the circle, signals that are a means of communicating with her colleagues in the ER.

With a computerized system, providers have to find an available computer terminal and log-in, she said, noting: The providers cant just walk up to the whiteboard and make a notation.

In some cases, providers noted that computer systems hid some of the information; if only three comments could be viewed per screen, they had to click to get to another screen, requiring them to search for information that might demand immediate attention.

The study also found that there were fewer visual cues with the computational system. Some providers noted that they used to be able to get a
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Contact: Ellen Goldbaum
goldbaum@buffalo.edu
716-645-5000 x1415
University at Buffalo
Source:Eurekalert

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