Hand-held computers to help Carroll nurses Better recordkeeping is goal for hospital

April 01, 1996|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Nursing at Carroll County General Hospital is poised to enter the computer age.

Instead of writing a patient's vital signs on a hospital chart, nurses soon will be entering the information into hand-held computers, making a patient's hospital record immediately available to physicians and lab technicians.

"Since day one, nurses have collected all the data on patients -- anything that happens is documented in a chart," said Linda McNeely, Carroll County's General's new information specialist.

Ms. McNeely is an expert in the specialty known as "nursing informatics."

"We want nurses to be able to use a computer to record the same information they now document by hand," she said. "A typewritten word is certainly much clearer to look at than handwriting."

The project is part of a continuing effort by the hospital to computerize all its data-oriented operations.

Since 1991, Carroll County General has spent $2.4 million to computerize its lab, radiology, pharmacy, dietary and therapy departments and its patient billing system.

Installation of the new nursing system, and the purchase of hardware and software, is expected to cost about $536,000.

Computer improvements at the hospital so far have made it possible for staff to call up a patient's latest blood tests or medications on a computer. By computerizing a patient's hospital chart, doctors and nurses will have access to the most up-to-date information to track a patient's hospital stay, hospital officials said.

In January, Carroll County General hired Ms. McNeely to oversee the hospital's nursing computer project. She said hospital nurses may be using computers to document a patient's record by the end of the year.

Until then, Ms. McNeely said she will spend much of her time preparing nurses for the transition from paper to keyboard.

"Physicians and nurses can be against [computerization] initially, because they're used to the chart," Ms. McNeely said. "But after the first screaming and yelling, it usually goes quite well."

Pub Date: 4/01/96

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