Survey Finds Emergency Departments Unprepared to Identify Bioterrorist Threats

A comprehensive survey of clinicians and hospitals administrators has revealed that 65 percent of emergency room professionals do not have technology in place to identify public health outbreaks and bioterrorist threats.

The results of the survey, released at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) 2006 Annual Conference and Exhibition also identified that 71 percent of emergency room professionals surveyed cited emergency department (ED) information systems for reducing patient wait times.

"Emergency departments are facing financial constraints and an aging patient population that is putting added strain on hospitals," said Mark Crockett, M.D, F.A.C.E.P, president of Picis Emergency Care Division, which conducted the survey."This survey suggests that biosurveillance technology is desperately needed in the nation's emergency departments to detect outbreaks and help EDs prepare for a surge of patients."

The survey highlighted what clinicians and hospital administrators believe are the most important aspects of technology in their hospital. Many of the findings point to improving quality care, safety and efficiency. Among the specific findings:

  • Technology critical to improving communication – 78 percent of emergency room respondents believe efficiency increases when staff have access to other departments' data, such as operating room or ICU resources and the clinical results of a patient.
  • Collecting patient data critical to improving care – Nearly 80 percent of respondents cite reporting of data has helped them re-engineer care processes at their medical center. Hospitals analyze data to improve care processes that, for example, help decrease patient wait times, reduce chances of medical errors and increase hospital efficiency. In addition, 70 percent of perioperative and ICU professionals surveyed cite medical device connectivity to a central clinical documentation system as having helped improve patient care.
  • Emergency departments do not have biosurveillance technology to identify epidemics – 65 percent of emergency room professionals are not equipped to detect an outbreak or prepare hospitals for a surge of patients. Biosurveillance technology analyzes, detects and alerts emergency department and public health workers of unusual levels of reported symptoms.
  • ED automation technology can help reduce patient wait times and emergency department overcrowding – 71 percent of respondents indicated that emergency department information systems have helped reduce patient wait times. The software helps increase the number of patients seen per hour, through increased communication, quicker registration and other process improvements.
  • Remote access to patient and hospital data is important – Nearly 90 percent of respondents believe that it is important or very important to have Web or remote access to a hospital's central information system to provide efficient, quality care from anywhere, anytime. This enables physicians to access a patient record from anywhere with a Web connection, enhancing decision making.

The survey, conducted by Picis, a provider of information systems, invited clinicians and hospital administrators to complete a questionnaire to submit electronically. The 250 respondents were divided into two groups, emergency department professionals and OR/ICU professionals.

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