PalmOne spots growth in technology for nurses

By Jack Beaudoin
12:00 AM

While many healthcare IT vendors design and market their clinical systems for caregivers at the top of the medical decision-making pecking order – physicians, RNs, and other practitioners – PDA manufacturer palmOne recently scored a coup by getting their devices into the hands of certified nursing assistants at Good Samaritan's 240 care centers in 25 states nationwide.

According to Gary Sikma, project manager at the nation's largest not-for-profit long-term care provider, the Tungsten Es – loaded with an application developed in house – will help CNAs cope with the increasing documentation demands its staff of 7,200 is now facing. Sikma said that HIPAA and other federal regulations make it clear that documentation and document management demands are only going to grow, and that some sort of data collection device at the point of care was the solution.

In addition to documenting daily living activities, however, the Tungsten Es will also be used to develop and adhere to individualize care plans, to capture vital signs and nutritional data, and to improve communication between caregivers. Data passes from the handhelds to a central server via Clarinet IP-enabled infrared readers.

Sikma acknowledges that putting high-tech devices into the hands of CNAs is not the norm. "But we also know that this empowers our CNAs," he said. "This is one of our 11 strategic initiatives – to empower employees with technology. The thing that excites them is that they feel empowered to take a more active role in developing care plan approaches."

Officials at palmOne have no doubt that their PDAs can generate returns on investment in the hands of all clinicians.

"Within healthcare, nursing is one area where productivity gains and other improvements are needed even more acutely than with physicians, but organizations have been slow to make the necessary investment," said Gail Moody-Byrd, director of healthcare marketing at palmOne. "We advocate greater education for nurses on the benefits of mobile solutions, empowering them to request handhelds or procure the technology on their own."

Analyst Gregg Malkary of Spyglass Consulting says that may be true of registered nurses, but probably not for CNAs. "Hospitals will need to buy them collectively," he says, but it will be worth it. "There's a phenomenal value proposition there."

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