IT deficits are eating hospital profits. CEOs need to wake up.

I work for a hospital network with the world’s slowest computers.  I timed it: Last shift, it took me fifteen minutes to log on. The first computer obtained didn’t function at all.  It had been worked on the day before by information technology services (IT).

Efficiency and time management appear to be amongst top priorities in medicine. “Did they get their aspirin 24 hours after getting their clot-busting drug after cleared of a brain bleed by a scan?” “Did they get their antibiotic within an hour of being recognized as a sepsis risk?”  “The census is low. We’re sending you home early; make sure you punch out in the next half hour.”

I would presume efficiency issues plague many healthcare networks. However, I have worked for two others without IT problems.  I actually become very vocal with one network whenever IT moves to change anything.  It seems to be working.

So what happens when we spend fifteen minutes trying to log in? Stress.  How do I medicate my patients efficiently? We could skip scanning medications, but Medicare reimbursements are dependent upon the percentage of medications scanned.  We could medicate and then go back and scan the medications. Unfortunately, many blister-packed pills position the bar code for scanning directly behind the pill.  This means once the pill is popped out of that blister pack, you can no longer scan it. And of course, for all the nervous Nancies out there, yes, there are safety checks and patient/lab/vital sign verifications that would be missed without scanning medications.

So why are we worried about picking apart every metric we can except for the speed of the technology we rely on to do our jobs? Most likely because desktop computers are usable.  It doesn’t affect managers.  Imagine I swap out my crumby mobile computer on wheels with the CEOs.  How fast would this problem get solved?

More importantly, how much money do we pay our IT team to essentially accomplish nothing due to a lack of server and router resources?  And why, as a floor nurse, should I be this deep into my knowledge of the technical issues plaguing this hospital network?

My history teacher taught me the word that sums it up.  It’s called “apathy.”  An attitude of disregard.  “All the nurses are always complaining about the computers.”  There’s a reason for it.  My patient is pissed because it took me twenty minutes to get them their narcotics.  I’m pissed because if I hadn’t waited for the computer to function so I can scan the medication, I could potentially be in trouble.

With all the changes we make to the charting system, you don’t think an effective change would be showing the user their medication scan rate?  Maybe I could start my morning off without scanning medications if I knew what my numbers were.

When I started working as a nurse, I wasn’t afraid of “big asks.”  I made some in the retail and legal fields that worked out great.  However, I’ve learned to meter my “asks” in medicine.  After continual disappointment, I would settle for a small victory.

I just wish our CEO knew how much of his lunch was being eaten by information technology deficits.  Wake up.

Matt Dayer is a nurse and can be reached on Twitter @DayerRn.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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