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September 12, 2002

Handheld PC units helping doctors, patients

  • Baptist Health Systems one of first in nation to acquire system

    By Pamela Berry

    Rick Guy / The Clarion-Ledger

    Dr. Cheryl Gladney uses a Pocket PC with TouchWorks Dictate Software and a wireless connection to check patient statistics as part of a new program that helps doctors keep better track of their patients' needs and also allows them to make notes that can be transcribed within minutes.


    Cheryl's now with
    Premier Medical Group
    of Mississippi

    Jackson, Mississippi

    When making life and death decisions about patient care, it's often critical to have information that is timely, accurate and readily accessible.

    At the Baptist Health Systems, hospital officials have addressed those concerns by acquiring new medical software that utilizes the technology of handheld computers. Baptist is one of the first healthcare systems in the nation to acquire the software.

    Called TouchWorks Dictate, the software automates the most common tasks doctors perform, including taking verbal notes on patients by wirelessly sending the information to be transcribed instantly.

    When doctors check out the 4-by-6-inch computers at the start of their shift, the units are already preloaded with their schedule for the day and the location of their patients.

    When visiting patients, doctors also can use the units to display anatomy diagrams and other information such as descriptions of drugs to aid in explaining medical procedures to patients.

    Dr. Cheryl Gladney, an internal medicine physician, said the software allows her to spend more time with her patients and less time on preparing paperwork.

    "Touchworks Dictate definitely makes dictations more convenient," Gladney said. "I always have access to a dictation center with this dictation service in my pocket, and therefore I can perform my dictations more efficiently so discharge summaries will be sent to referring physicians in a more timely manner."

    Gladney said the software also will aid in reducing errors by streamlining the dictation process because notes can be taken during the patient visit. Notes must be accurate, she said, because they are often shared with referring physicians and nurses.

    Brandon resident Wanda Reed said she was impressed with the new software.

    "Anything that will cut down on errors in hospitals is a good idea," Reed said.

    The hospital purchased 200 licenses of the units from Allscripts Healthcare Solutions.

    "Leading-edge technology from TouchWorks gives Baptist an advantage in our highly competitive market, where medical facilities do not directly employ physicians and several major medical facilities compete for the attention of physicians," said Rick Caldwell, Baptist Health System vice president and chief information officer.

    While the new software also is being used to insure proper billing, it also could be expanded to include patient laboratory results and prescriptions.

    Maribeth Slinkard, director of the Mississippi Medical Information Network, said many doctors, including those hesitant to use traditional computers, are embracing the handheld units.

    "Depending on the savvy of the physician, training usually takes 30-35 minutes," Slinkard said. "Their reaction is usually to ask, 'What else can I do with it?' It's a great production tool."

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