On the other hand: wireless satisfaction varies

December 17, 2001

The jury is still out on the value of handheld devices in medicine. While a growing number of physicians find handhelds useful in saving their practice time and money, others say paper still works better. North Philadelphia Health System (NPHS) is one

The jury is still out on the value of handheld devices in medicine. While a growing number of physicians find handhelds useful in saving their practice time and money, others say paper still works better.

North Philadelphia Health System (NPHS) is one organization that sees operational advantages in wireless healthcare technologies. After incorporating mobile wireless into the everyday environment of the hospital setting, NPHS found that cutting-edge technology brought the health system greater revenue as well as substantial savings and improved quality of service.

NPHS now generates reports in ten minutes, for example. Before their wireless solution - CareLink from Numoda - was implemented, reports took an average of three hours to produce. In healthcare, time savings means dollar savings for the patient.

Wireless handhelds provide point-of-service data collection and one-time data entry. NPHS physicians found their work list processes benefited as service delays were eliminated, resulting in overall reductions in length of stay, since they had information to make treatment decisions more quickly.

A Michigan medical group, in contrast, found paper still works best for them. The anesthesiology group in Grand Rapids tested handheld devices to track billing but found the paperless system created too much clerical work for physicians.

When a merger of two medical groups formed the 53-doctor Anesthesia Medical Consultants, physician compensation was changed from an equal split basis to individual productivity based on the number of units billed in increments of 15 minutes. Doctors now had to keep records as detailed as attorneys.

One technophile anesthesiologist among them, Dr. Doug Wiseman, wrote a handheld-based application to track cases, which the group agreed to test. While some physicians found the wireless solution valuable, it still had 26 different fields to be filled out. Others physicians found this too cumbersome, especially when doing high turnover cases.

In such as the OR, they found it took longer to input the data than it did to do the actual case. Ultimately, the group consensus was that the wireless system gave physicians too many clerical responsibilities, and the application was rejected.