Mercy Hospital took the initiative and started a unique program called “Operation Safety Net”, and went out to take care of homeless people in the city of Pittsburgh. They wanted to be able to take their patient database and make it mobile. The homeless didn’t elect to come in to the hospital for help, so Mercy decided to take the hospital to them. The homeless are afraid of the repercussions that they might be taken away and put in shelters or jail or worried about not having insurance and most of the time couldn’t or simply wouldn’t make it in for care.
PERPETUATING’S role was to help Mercy figure out how to go out and not only find out where the homeless are, but bring the necessary mobile technology to assist the doctors and nurses in the field. So having access to the patients database on the go was the key issue, which has a lot of regulatory protocols because of course its in the health care sector. Also, how would you be able to make the patients information easily accessible to determine any prior medication and overall patient history records for quick review to treat them in the field. We needed to streamline the information process to provide better care immediately.
In order for Perpetuating to really understand what the experience was like, we had all of the team members go out with the doctors one by one, so we could really understand what it was like so that we could really care for the homeless patients. Each time there was a visit from doctor to homeless patient, it was called an encounter. This was the first thing that needed to be established was the history of encounters, so the doctors could scale and build on their previous recommendations and needs of each patient.
PERPETUATING created the solution using one of the first actual mobile devices working with Compaq ipack. We took it out on the rounds and tested the coverage area and functionality. We realized right away going in that sometimes the most difficult determination was patient recognition, so we had to create elaborate ways to find out the name and access the correct information file of the patient. We did this through an extensive search criteria utilizing descriptive narratives, locations, nicknames and other creative tools to find out who the doctors were working on in the field, not to mention making the devices strong and durable for in the field usage to prevent damage.
We also had to follow all of the typical healthcare security and following all of the regulatory HIPAA, Health Information Portability Accountability Act, which at the time was just coming out and was still in the draft form. We had to make sure that all of the patient data would be secure and never be corrupted.
As we built the product we continued to go out on rounds with the doctors again and again to see if it was going to work for them. We also procured the mobile device early and contracted with a hardware engineering firm to design a custom case for it. It was custom made with neoprene and a clear front specifically for the initial fleet of iPaq for Compaq. We worked with the administrators at the hospital to make sure the security would be in place and we connected with Verizon and a lot of infrastructure needs to produce the right connectivity to lock it down.
The technology we used was a Microsoft Access back end and it was connected throughout the hospital via frame relay network wirelessly using CDPD, which was the Compaq iPaq. When everything was completed, we won a, “project management excellence award” from Carnegie Mellon University. The director of the program was also awarded similar honors. The advisors that were originally involved in the project still continue today to use the it as an example of a successful model and have implemented newer technologies based upon the original innovative conception.
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