A major development in New Jersey hospitals and other medical facilities across the country in recent years has been the steady — and rapid — implementation of electronic health record (EHR) systems to supplant paper records and handwritten patient notes.

The transformation has been often commented on within the medical community and by industry watchers, many who have pointed out both the great promise and the ample growing pains of EHR processes as they seek to gain firm traction in American hospitals.

There is considerable evidence on both sides of that coin. When designed well and interacted with by well-trained and motivated medical professionals, EHR systems can streamline communication, simplify exchanges and increase charting neatness and legibility.

On the flip side, sloppy engineering and unfriendly interfaces and drop-menu menus have led to users’ dissatisfaction, medication errors, problems with entering and transferring data and a number of other problems.

A lead study participant in a Stanford-led initiative points out that, indeed, many EHR systems are simply difficult to work with.

They are “data-rich and information-poor,” says physician and researcher Natalie Pageler.

With that realization in mind, Pageler and other researchers set out to create a tool that would be easier to use, increase medical staff members’ efficiency and reduce medical harm to patients.

Their focus was specifically aimed at reducing one particular hospital-acquired infection, namely, infection that often results from patients’ use of central-line catheters, through which they receive intravenous medications.

What Pageler’s team came up with through collaboration with an engineering team was a way to pull out relevant patient data from an EHR record and then link it to a computerized treatment checklist. In turn, that information was arranged to display prominently on a large screen accessible to medical staff members at a nursing station.

The result: easy-to-read treatment information coupled with patient alerts that let nurses easily see what needs to be done and when, all without a need for any staff member to personally pore into a cumbersome electronic record.

The obvious hope of researchers is to expand such a system to other medical uses.

Source: RedOrbit, “Computerized checklist reduces type of hospital infection,” Stanford University Medical Center, Feb. 25, 2014