December 15, 2008

High Tech Helper

Winnipeg health region implements Emergency Department Information System

Anytime of the day or night, the emergency department at your local hospital is often a busy place. To help improve and track the flow of patients through the emergency department, beginning last year, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) began using technology called the Emergency Department Information System (EDIS).

The system provides a global view of what is going on throughout the entire emergency department, says Dr. Robert Sweetland, Regional Physician Lead for EDIS. It tracks patients throughout their stay in the ER from their first point of entry at the triage desk through to their discharge from the ER - either to a bed in another unit of the hospital or home.

"EDIS is an overwhelming success. It is the central nerve control centre for the department," Sweetland says.

Patient status information is displayed on large colour-coded monitors mounted inside the emergency department. These provide staff a broad view of what is happening in the department, from tracking how long patients are waiting to see a physician, the number of patients in the department, to the status of lab results and whether the patient needs to be re-assessed.

In addition to the monitors, staff can also access patient history by logging into EDIS computer stations set up within the department. With a few clicks of the mouse, Sweetland says, health care providers have access to the patient's history including past visits to Emergency, lab results, allergies or other important information that can assist with diagnosis. He says EDIS is also effective for keeping in touch with patients after they leave Emergency. The system enables physicians to flag a patient's name for any follow up that may be required.

EDIS makes access to information easier and quicker. This system helps improve patient flow, patient safety and ultimately provide more information for the physician to make the best decisions for the patient, says Sweetland.

Any large emergency department in an urban area throughout Canada and the U.S. either has or is in the process of buying or implementing a similar information system, says Randy Martens, Administrative Director, WRHA Emergency and Critical Care Programs.

Installing an electronic tracking system was one of the recommendations that came out of the Emergency Care Task Force Report, mandated by the provincial government in 2004. Soon after the report's release, plans were underway for choosing the software and developing a region-wide plan to phase-in the system into all Winnipeg emergency departments.

EDIS was first introduced to the Children's Emergency (January 2007) and the Adult Emergency (March 2007) at Health Sciences Centre and was gradually installed in all emergency departments in the city: St. Boniface General Hospital, Grace Hospital, Seven Oaks General Hospital, Victoria General Hospital and, most recently, Concordia Hospital in November 2008.

With EDIS now operating in all hospitals, the next step is to re-assess how the system is working in each facility and evaluate the data collected over the past year.

"We expect to be able to use the data to change processes within the emergency department and how the department interacts with other areas in the hospital," Martens says. "Now we have a system that will allow us to
measure the results."

As the region continues to move towards electronic patient records, EDIS will become an essential component of a much larger and more comprehensive electronic patient documentation system, Martens says. "We will eventually be able to do our charting and entry of physician orders for tests and consults through this system, although that will be a future phase of the implementation."

- Tammy Melesko


For more health and wellness news, pick up the Winter 2008/09 edition of Aspire, now available at selected WRHA offices and facilities.

Aspire is also available for download here:

Aspire - Winter 2008/09

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