Making Space for Safety

June 24, 2011
Patient safety and space are key considerations for WellStar Health System, Marietta, Ga. To further those priorities, the health system's long-range
Patient safety and space are key considerations for WellStar Health System, Marietta, Ga. To further those priorities, the health system's long-range safety initiative — which complements its electronic documentation and bar coding initiatives — laid a roadmap to move from manual processes to mobile data-collection tools. The quest was to find a space-efficient form factor for data-collection devices.

Frequently selected to pilot new strategies for the five hospital system — with facilities ranging in size from 38 to 490 beds and serving both urban and rural facilities — is 98-bed WellStar Douglas. "We're large enough to try it out, but small enough to achieve the input necessary to make changes," says Martha Seahorn, R.N., director of nursing.

The system hosted two vendor fairs — one to select product types, the second, actual products. Among different types of mobile devices, staff members overwhelmingly selected computers on wheels (COWs), which led to a second fair showcasing mobile carts. WellStar chose carts from Flo Healthcare, Norcross, Ga.

Flo Healthcare COWs' design and space-saving characteristics are of particular appeal to Seahorn, who faces a constant shortage of space near nursing stations. "We are constantly adding new technology and equipment," she says, "and rarely is anything taken away. Units become crowded. I need something that is as unobtrusive as possible."

One unanticipated benefit of the COWs was their locking drawers, which allowed for a medication dispensing unit at every nursing station, notes Seahorn.

An underestimation was the high demand for mobile access. Although the organization had purchased COWs based on the number staff members per unit, it didn't roll them all out due to the space issue. But within the first couple of weeks, physicians started using the COWs to access their portal — and WellStar rolled out those held in reserve.

Author Information:Charlene Marietti J.T. Gillett is a marketing manager with Plexis Healthcare Systems, Ashland, Ore.

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