The Long Road to Consolidation

How do you turn 30 documentation forms into a single, user-friendly computer program? It’s a long process, say staff at Integris Health-Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Hospital in Oklahoma City. They worked on a six-month project with representatives from a computer software firm.

The committee started with a small group of department representatives but asked more staff to attend the meetings when their input was needed. "We included diverse disciplines, from social work to aquatics to pediatric therapy. It was more than just physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech. We wanted input from anyone who handled patients’ paper," says hospital director Nada Dobson.

The committee began by compiling everything that was a manual process, from telephone calls relaying orders to a piece of paper that had to be filled out by someone on the staff. They determined which information collected was common to each discipline and which the individual disciplines needed to track separately.

Then they set out to decide how each part of the form should be worded and how the documentation should be entered, such as whether it needed to be in text or if the therapist could use a pick list.

If the documentation could be entered by choosing items in a list, the committee called on members of each discipline that would use the list to determine what items should be on it and whether it should include numeric or yes/no questions.

The committee has done more than just take paper forms and automate them, Dobson says. Here are some of the other steps necessary to set up a computerized documentation system:

1. Decide what equipment is needed and where it will be located.

2. Assess staff computer skills to determine what type of training needs to be provided.

3. Look at the hospital building to find out what kind of wiring needs to be done to accommodate the new system.