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Mercy Medical Center Improves Efficiency and Quality With Wireless LAN Technology

Mercy Medical Center of Springfield, Ohio, has embraced a new wireless LAN technology that helps the hospital reach its goals of treating patients quickly, efficiently and accurately.

Application: Wireless System Designed to Promote Mobility and Efficiency
At Mercy Medical, case managers are responsible for gathering authorizations from insurers for procedures and length of patient stays. Prior to implementing a wireless LAN, this process required two steps: gathering information and recording it to the hospital information system (HIS). Now Mercy is able to consolidate these two steps into one.

Mobile case managers gather and record information directly to the HIS via a portable workstation, without traveling to wired workstations or plugging into ports. Direct recording provides hospital staff with information they need in real time, helping Mercy expedite patient care and contain costs. Furthermore, because each case manager covers two or more geographical areas within the hospital, the wireless LAN helps Mercy avoid the cost and space constraints of maintaining a separate workstation for a case manager in each area.

Case managers also monitor the quality of each patient's infection control, risk management and general care. Before the wireless LAN, these were separate departments, and coordinators form each department would routinely review all charts for potential high-risk patients. The wireless LAN has allowed Mercy to redesign the process so that case managers screen the charts for all functions within the departments, such as quality, risk management and infection control issues. Collected data is entered into the hospital's managed care system, and the appropriate coordinator receives information on a particular patient only if follow-up is needed.

Benefits: : Wireless LAN Speeds Cost Calculating and Admissions
Having a mobile workforce has transformed the efficiency of Mercy's processes. The hospital has improved its cost containment, as well as quality of care, and is now working to make hospital admissions a faster procedure.

Wireless Cost Calculating
Mercy coders are responsible for translating diagnostic and care procedures recorded on patient charts to a standard code. Insurers then reimburse Mercy according to the codes. Before Mercy implemented the wireless technology, staff coded information after patients left the hospital. That meant Mercy could calculate the cost of care only after providing it. Once Mercy began using a wireless network, coders could gather information from patient charts still in circulation.

Through this type of concurrent coding, the hospital's coders can more accurately do their jobs because they can interact with the physician while a patient is still at the hospital. Coders have a complete, accurate listing of a patient's diagnosis on the chart at the time of a patient's discharge. Another benefit is the ability to have the diagnosis statement available for the doctor to sign at a patient's discharge. Coders don't have to wait for the doctor's signature at a later time and can immediately bill the patient.

"This new procedure, made possible through wireless technology, makes the coding process faster and more accurate," Therese Riehle, Mercy's director of Care Coordination, said. "Therefore, we are able to more quickly establish a patient's cost of care."

Mobile Admissions
Mercy is currently working on using their wireless system to admit patients more quickly. From the emergency room, mobile admissions clerks admit those patients moving to the main hospital. Mobile admissions clerks also admit children after they have arrived in pediatrics. Mobile admissions nurses speed caregiving for all patients by planning and ordering procedures from patient bedsides. In this way, says Riehle, Mercy has "the ability to take the admitting process to the patient."

Installation Size Mercy Medical Center's wireless system consists of 20 wireless devices supported by six hosts.

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