Costs down, quality up: A hospital goes wireless


The initial impulse by hospital executives was to deploy a computerized physician order system, which enables doctors to order tests and medication in real time and to view the potential impact of specific drugs on specific patients, according to Christiano. But that wasn't feasible because of the way Vassar Brothers is organized.

Vassar Brothers is a so-called community-based health care system in which doctors are independent and are not hospital employees. Since they are not compensated for making rounds in the hospital, they aren't as likely to use computer systems while they're there but, rather, tend to get back to their own offices as soon as possible.

"Everybody wanted a computerized physician order entry system," Christiano said. "But when you're dealing with community-based physicians who aren't on staff, it takes longer for them to get to a computer."

If the system couldn't focus on the doctors, then it had to focus on nurses, Christiano said.

"If you break this down, the next battle line where you can control medications is at the nursing level," he said. "Nurses are employees. So instead of a computerized physician's order entry system, I said let's look at a medication barcoding system." That, at least, would solve the critical problem of safely and efficiently administering medication, he noted.