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Data-powered mobile healthcare

By investing in barcode scanner-equipped enterprise mobile devices such as clinical smartphones for patient point of care, hospitals can build a transformative data-powered Internet of Things.

The resulting powerful information system instantly connects them to the vital clinical data they need, anywhere on the floor and at any time. The healthcare sector is taking the lead in digitizing operations with data-driven, collaborative workflows, and enhancing both patient safety and staff efficiency in the process.

Mobile data capture can be a critical part of a change management strategy designed to limit medical errors. When hospitals implement barcode printing and scanning technology for sample and tissue tracking, for example, nurses and other staff gain instant access to the data needed to safeguard patients’ health throughout the continuum of care. The technology offers hospitals the potential to make decisions to enhance patient safety with new data-powered workflows. Here are some examples:

  • Scanning patients’ barcoded wristbands provides real-time access to their Electronic Health Records (EHR) in a single view, including name, date of birth, medical number, previous conditions and allergies. Accessing such information enables more timely, collaborative and informed care.
  • During patient test specimen collection, a nurse can also scan a barcoded specimen collection order and a labelled test specimen container, completing a three-point check that can prevent misdiagnoses and unnecessary tests and treatments.
  • Barcode Medication Administration (BCMA), which can drastically reduce medication errors according to a New England Journal of Medicine study, employs a similar three-point check. It involves scanning barcodes on the medication container, the patient’s wristband and the clinician’s ID badge.

Barcode scanning technology represents a powerful countermeasure to the inherent challenges in ensuring a safe pharmaceutical, vaccine and blood supply. From the hospital supply chain to clinicians, anyone can trace pharmaceuticals and medical implants and monitor the temperature of vaccines and blood bags. Medical error reduction strategies and new regulations drive change in the healthcare sector.

Since European Directive 2011/62/EU, aka the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD), went into effect across Europe in February 2019, pharmaceutical traceability has become even more important. Regardless of how Brexit plays out, the FMD stipulations will remain until December 2020.

Under the FMD, all new packages of prescription medicines sold in the EU must have two safety features: an anti-tamper device and a 2D barcode. Pharmacies and organizations that supply medicines to the public have to authenticate them i.e. visually check the Adult Therapeutic Dose (ADT) and scan them for confirmation of authenticity in the European Medicine Verification System (EMVS) prior to dispensing.

Powerful solutions are also available to help healthcare organisations maintain the safety of perishable cold-chain assets such as vaccines, blood bags and certain pharmaceuticals. Package-affixable time and temperature indicators enable manufacturers, warehouses and hospital pharmacies to document the temperature of these assets throughout the supply chain to ensure their viability for safe use.

Innovative, patient-centric healthcare organisation leaders know that effective change management through bedside data access and traceability implementation requires major capital investments in staff mobility and data capture. But as they plan these investments, they need to keep their staff’s needs and the hospital environment in mind.

As the number of devices available to hospital staffs has grown in recent years, they have experienced diminishing efficiency returns as clinicians have juggled so many of them. Rugged mobile computers and tablets present a great opportunity to consolidate devices - to the staff’s benefit. Giving nursing staff rugged mobile computers, for example, enables them to pull up patient history records; confirm current medications and allergies; discuss patient care with physicians, family members and other staff via voice calls or secure texts; capture high-quality pictures of wounds or other medical issues; complete routine reporting regarding patient interactions; and receive critical alerts - from anywhere in the hospital and on one device.

Not all mobile technology is up to hospital environments. Consumer-grade smartphones and tablets might offer the staff familiar touchscreen navigation, but they aren’t built to withstand occasional drops, continuous disinfection, offer the shift-length battery power or healthcare-compliant data security to perform as well as purpose-built enterprise healthcare devices. At Zebra, we serve as a trusted advisor to clinical teams to deliver a point of care smartphone that mobilizes the teams while reducing the risk of Health Care Associated Infection (HCAI).

Like any other IT system components, mobile technology must adhere to National Health Service (NHS) patient data security standards. Data security features to focus on include data encryption and application permissions, unauthorized user access prevention and the capability of running healthcare-certified applications.

Author details: Wayne Miller is Director, EMEA, Healthcare Practice at Zebra Technologies

Author
Wayner Miller

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