Technology in Practice

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Reviewing product information at a manufacturer's website with a patient while in the patient room.
Reviewing product information at a manufacturer's website with a patient while in the patient room.

You probably already have computers in many areas of your practice, but have you ever considered putting them in your patient rooms? With the price of computers dropping all the time, it is not that expensive to put a system in each room to provide you with direct access to information while you are working with your patient.  Include a widescreen LCD monitor and a set of speakers to create a versatile system that looks very professional.

For placement, you may already have a good location, or there are some nice rolling computer desks available that allow you to move the computer out of the way and ensure that you never have to turn your back to the patient while accessing the computer.  The rolling desk I use in my practice is available at this link.

There are a number of things that I regularly use the computer for in the patient rooms. Here are some of the most common functions:

Recording patient measurements in the electronic chart.
Recording patient measurements in the electronic chart.

Electronic charting: the primary purpose of the systems in my patient rooms is to fill out my clinical evaluations, measurements, fabrication work orders, and patient notes, as well as have access to historical information on each patient.

Discussing options with patients: Having immediate access to relevant websites to discuss orthotic and prosthetic options with patients is very helpful in describing what your treatment plans will be.  Printing the pages for the patients allows them to take something home with them to get a better understanding of what they will be receiving from you.

Patient education: You can create patient education PowerPoint presentations that can be viewed by your patient with or without you in the room with them.  Also taking patients to advocacy and support sites such as the Amputee Coalition of America's website opens up the world to your patients.

Ordering supplies: I order components for the patient while I am in the room with them to make sure that it gets done in a timely manner.  For example, if I need to order new liners or suspension sleeves for a patient, I don't let them leave the patient room until I have confirmed that the order was placed online.  That way they know it was done, and there are no surprises when they come back for their next appointment.

Entertaining patients: I keep a selection of interesting BBC and National Geographic movies for patients to watch in their rooms while we are busy working on extensive repairs.  A comfortable chair, interesting movies, and a cup of coffee help make the time fly by quicker than flipping through old copies of Time magazine.

Communicating with other staff members: We use Instant Messaging in my office as well, so if I need my secretary to take care of something for me while I am in the room with the patient, I can quickly send her an instant message and not have to leave the room. 

There are a number of other benefits to having a computer in each of your patient rooms, and it all depends upon how you choose to take advantage of the resources that are available to you.  Keep in mind presentation and mobility so that you can use the system in a streamlined way, and be sure to have your IT specialist fine tune your security settings to prevent access to areas of your network that should remain confidential.

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