IHealth: Lab Rollout at NRGH

Enabled by new technology, laboratory staff at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital (NRGH) no longer have to shuttle so many times each day between six in-patient floors and the lab facility on the first floor.

As part of a recent IHealth upgrade related to electronic ordering (commonly known as CPOE), Medical Lab Assistants are now rolling onto wards with 15 new specimen collection carts set up for more efficient blood sample collection from inpatients.

“Staff were quite anxious about how things were going to go, but they jumped right in,” said Mitzi McFarlane, Co-ordinator for Laboratory Pre-Analytics at NRGH. “Initially there was some trepidation about using computers. But it’s been an easy program to use, you just pull up the patient on the laptop on the cart and away you go. They’ve noticed efficiencies right away, and a lot less running around.”

Not only are they more efficient, but the new carts combined with new and updated electronic workflows bring notable patient care benefits.

“The CPOE upgrade at NRGH is improving how Lab Medicine operations delivers phlebotomy service to our patients,” said Sean Hardiman, Executive Director responsible for Laboratory Medicine. “Before the upgrade, we used a manual process that was organized around printing labels in the lab and then heading out to the wards to find patients who required lab samples to be taken.”

Deb Bonderud, Operations Director for Laboratory in Central and South Island, complimented the great work done by the Lab team and explained how the special tech-equipped carts support the phlebotomists to work much more effectively on patient care floors.

“With the introduction of the new specimen collection carts that include key devices – laptop computers, barcode scanners, and label printers – Medical Lab Assistants now have the ability to perform wristband scanning and specimen label printing right at the patient’s beside.”

These changes reduce the risk of errors and increase patient privacy as the labels only print for that specific patient when the sample is taken. That means the labour-intensive work of pre-printing patient labels is completely eliminated.

“We will also see a reduction in duplicate patient collection orders through this upgrade,” Hardiman added. “Medical Lab Assistants now have a real-time patient list that lists all the samples that need collection. In the past, lists were printed out and might not have included physician orders that occurred after the list was printed but before the sample was collected. With a real-time list, patients will experience fewer blood draws and more timely lab results, improving their experience and speeding their care.”

These changes largely came about as a result of lab staff signalling a need for change, said Hardiman.

“It began with the NRGH lab operations staff speaking up about significant gaps in the system that would have a negative effect on subsequent CPOE activations at other hospitals around the region if they were not addressed,” he said. “It is because of their courage to speak up that the challenges with our system were recognized and could be fixed.”

In the end it was a true Island Health team effort and McFarlane applauded lab staff for sticking with it to make this important quality improvement.

“They did it, and we got through it. And every day they’re learning something new and they’ve been willing to take this on and run with it, knowing that it’s going to lead to better patient care.”

The lab changes enabled at NRGH will roll out at South Island Tertiary sites when they go live with CPOE and other advanced electronic health record tools and processes beginning with Royal Jubilee Hospital on June 8.

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