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How technology is transforming your health care

Bookmark and Share Imagine this: You're driving along Route 295 when your car's global positioning system alerts you that the road is flooded ahead and suggests you immediately take an alternate route. This key information — provided right when you need it — helps keep you safe and saves you time. Virtua similarly is using advanced technology to deliver critical information quickly to doctors and nurses to save time and speed up diagnosis and treatment. "The goal is for clinicians to get the data they need, right when they need it, from wherever they are," says John Bloomer, vice president and chief information officer at Virtua Health. "To achieve this, we are using a variety of technologies." PDAs provide data at the bedside
Thanks to hand-held personal digital assistants (PDAs), nurses and physicians at Virtua waste no time accessing laboratory results, diagnostic reports, medication lists and other essential data. These wireless PDAs synchronize with Virtua's existing patient-information systems and deliver medical data directly to the device. "As a nurse in the Voorhees neonatal intensive care unit," explains Maryann Carroll, RNC, "my job is to monitor babies at their bedside as well as keep a steady eye on their test results so I can guide their care. The PDA allows access to the latest clinical information, and I don't have to leave an infant's side." Long-distance review of x-rays
A picture archiving and communication system (PACS), a process for storing and viewing digital radiology images, allows physicians secure access to these images from any place with Internet access. "During a snowstorm last winter, a patient who'd recently had surgery came into the emergency department with pain," says Bloomer. "The ER staff took radiology images. His surgeon was able to review these images from home and quickly reassure the patient that everything looked fine." Saves time in the ER
Virtua's emergency rooms (ERs) use patient tracking software to improve efficiency. Physicians and nurses can log onto the secure system and get a sense of what's happening in the entire ER, including the number of patients waiting, the severity of their conditions and how long they have been waiting. Easy access to this information allows effective management of patients and staffing, and utilization of space. "The software saves staff time since it tracks lab and radiology results and provides an on-screen view of results when they're ready," explains Susan Zolnowski, RN, who works in the Virtua Memorial ER. "It also enhances care, because abnormal results are flagged with an alert." Faster cardiac diagnosis
MUSE is a fully-digital, wireless system that transmits and stores a patient's electrocardiogram (EKG) data for immediate retrieval anytime, anywhere via the Internet. The system allows Virtua's physicians to provide a faster cardiac diagnosis than previously available. "Every second of delay after the onset of a heart attack translates to a significant, permanent loss of heart muscle," says Virtua cardiologist Vincent Spagnuolo, Jr., MD. "We need the right information right away for immediate treatment of the heart condition." The digital future
"We are working toward a future where all patients' records, past and present, are instantly available to all appropriate medical personnel — everyone on the same digital page at the same time in real time," says Stephen Pilipshen, MD, chief of surgery at Virtua Memorial. "And, these systems are being designed with built-in checks and balances to improve patient safety and quality of care."