University physicians capture data on the run

Anesthesiology physicians in the ICU at George Washington University Hospital have saved a collective total of nearly 30 hours per week on patient billing and clinical documentation since deploying wireless technology from MobiHealth Inc., according to Christopher Junker, M.D., the hospital's director of neurocritical care.

"There are five physicians in our department and we bill US$3.5 million in charges per year, based on an average of 45 charges per day," said Junker. "We can now (efficiently) manage clinical patient data and billing information without having to sift through an avalanche of paperwork."

GWU began using the MobiHealth system, called m-Health, as part of a pilot program in June, 2003.

GWU physicians access m-Health on Dell handhelds, allowing them to quickly look up and enter data. Patient demographics, including medical record numbers, are pre-entered into the hospital's database by an admitting service. This information is uploaded to m-Health through an admission discharge and transfer (ADT) feed, which identifies patients and provides specific charge codes for services provided. The ADT feed makes it possible to input, gather, transmit, and receive patient data in real-time.

"Certain codes are entered into each patient's record, based on care they receive," said Junker. "These codes let us capture patient encounter data to create an itemized bill with services and procedures performed, and each patient receives up to four codes."

While GWU is satisfied with m-Health, Junker said there is room for improvement in how codes are entered and updated. "Right now, we still have to manually look up and add codes to our common pick list, depending on a patient's condition," said Junker. "I would like to have (more of) these codes pre-entered, so we can just select the ones we need and go from there."

Junker added that physicians access m-Health on the Web to keep daily notes on patient status, condition and treatment data, and type of care provided. Along with updated patient information, financial and clinical data is electronically routed to the hospital's billing systems.

"This is a labor-saving device," said Junker. "In the past, it took each physician more than three hours per day to enter billing (and clinical) information with a hard-copy entering and tracking system. Now, it takes (each physician) fewer than two hours."

m-Health is also helping physicians doing rounds capture patient information. Average rounding time has decreased from 30-45 minutes to 10-15 minutes per patient, said Junker. He said this has saved each physician roughly an hour and a half per day.

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