This is a post by Dr. Rod Tarrago, a pediatric intensive care physician at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. He is also the Chief Medical Information Officer and is proud to admit he’s a computer geek. He’s been helping improve the care at Children’s through the use of technology and spends most of his time helping other clinicians improve their understanding of the computer system. He’s the proud father of two young boys and future computer geeks.
We’ve been using computers to help take care of kids at Children’s for several years. We order medicines, track kids’ vital signs, and look at X-rays on computers. Now, we’re starting to use more advanced technology to make sure we keep kids as safe as possible. Many of the children we treat have complex cases and require various medicines. That can be very confusing and potentially dangerous for those taking care of the patient. Can you imagine trying to keep perfect track of a patient who has more than 30 medicines, especially when doses and times are changing?
Recently, we’ve started using familiar technology – medication scanners – in our Minneapolis Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). The scanners are similar to those used in other industries where a scanner checks a bar code to make sure it’s the right product. In our case, patients and families may have seen our nurses and respiratory therapists “scanning” the kids’ medicines prior to giving them. Just as we previously were checking our patients’ ID bands to make sure the right medicine was being given to the right child, we’re now using the computers to make sure that it’s the right medicine at the right time with the right dose via the right route to the right patient. Children’s is the first pediatric hospital in the nation to use this technology.
Our nurses, respiratory therapists and information technology departments worked hard to make sure that the rooms were set up correctly and that the scanners worked for all medicines. They even changed the labels to make sure wrinkles were less likely to interfere with the scanning. They also came up with some creative solutions to lower the volume so that the beeping of the scanners wouldn’t wake up the kids at night.
In the busy Minneapolis PICU, nurses scan more than 2000 medications every week, and this has helped us detect several instances in which medications might have been given early or late.
At Children’s our No. 1 priority is to keep our patients safe and help them get better. By using our new scanner technology to more safely deliver medicine to the kids, we are staying at the forefront of medicine. Over the next few months, we’ll extend this important technology to other units at Children’s.