Category Archives: Technology

The Electronic Trauma Flow Sheet: What Does(n’t) Work – Part 2

Yesterday, I wrote about how the electronic trauma flow sheet (eTFS) practically assures a garbage in situation. Today, I’ll dig into what happens on the back end, and how it creates a garbage out situation.

There are two ways to view the eTFS on the back end (abstraction phase): read a paper report or view it live in the electronic health record (EHR). Let’s look at each:

  • Paper report. Anyone who has actually generated one of these can tell you that it’s a disaster! Reams of paper, typically 20-30 pages. Hundreds of “chronological” entries. Inclusion of extraneous information from later in the hospital stay. Difficult to understand. Hard to pick out the true “signal” due to all the “noise!” And it doesn’t matter how customized the report is, it will always fail on these issues.
  • Live EHR. Your abstractor (registrar, PI coordinator, trauma program manager) logs in and pulls up the screen(s) containing the eTFS. Once again, they need to mouse and keyboard around, looking for the specific things they are interested in. Piece by piece, they try to assemble a human-understandable picture of what happened. But since it’s not chronological across all activities in this view, it can be very challenging.
  • Both. And then there’s the issue of Garbage In I discussed yesterday. Conflicting patient arrival times. Lack of accurate team arrival documentation. Vital signs and IV infusions recorded after patient expiration or discharge. No massive transfusion start time. Inaccurate data from the scribe’s “cheat sheet.”

The final result of all of the shortcomings listed above is this: it increases trauma flow sheet abstraction time by three-fold or more! If you are a trauma center with a two tier trauma activation system, you probably have a lot of TTAs. Therefore, it takes a lot of time to abstract all those flow sheets. Which ultimately means that you (this really means your hospital) will have to pay for more registrars / PI coordinators / nurses!

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that the eTFS is not a great way to go. Tomorrow, I’ll discuss strategies to use if your hospital is “considering” moving to an eTFS. And Friday, I’ll wrap up with what to do if you’ve already been burdened with it.

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The Electronic Trauma Flow Sheet: What Does(n’t) Work – Part 1

There are two major problem areas using an electronic trauma flow sheet (eTFS): the front end and the back end. Today, I’ll discuss the front end data entry problems.

Trauma activations are very data intensive events. Beginning prior to patient arrival, there are registration activities so the electronic health record (EHR) can begin accepting other information about the patient. Once they arrive, there is a continuous stream of information regarding observations, actions, results, medications, fluid, blood, and much more. All of these occur during a relatively brief period of time. Some are simultaneous.

This stream of information continues after the patient leaves the trauma bay for CT, imaging, interventional radiology, operating room, ICU, or ward bed. The flow sheet scribe is charged with recording all of this information as contemporaneously as possible. This ensures accuracy of the data, particularly with events that occurred at the same time.

But there is a major difference in input between the paper trauma flow sheet and the eTFS. The paper sheet is typically a three or four page form that is laid out in front of the scribe. All of the data blocks are readily visible, and are grouped in logical clusters: prehospital information here, primary survey data there, procedures in that one, vitals and narrative there.

Unfortunately, it’s not so simple with the eTFS. The scribe can view whatever content fits on a single screen. And it is just not possible to display all of the needed info on that one screen. The software developers addressed this problem by creating multiple screens that can be accessed by clicking on various tabs or buttons. The problem is that the human cannot see where the blocks are and must be very familiar with the tabs and buttons. And to make it worse, they must shift between mouse click and keyboard to move between them and record data.

This results in a stream of input that can’t be recorded quickly enough to stay current. It is very common to see a “cheat sheet” next to the input terminal so the scribe can add quick handwritten notes when they get behind. This information is entered later, but as you may imagine, accuracy suffers. It is very common to see events or results that do not fit the timeline. Once this occurs, the entire record is suspect and will not represent the true flow of the resuscitation. And what about events that occur during patient transport, between computer workstations?

The difficulty of entering trauma resuscitation information in true real time results in a Garbage In situation. Tomorrow, I’ll continue with problems on the back end that can result in Garbage Out.

 

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The Electronic Trauma Flow Sheet: Why Hospitals Want You To Switch

Today, I’ll kick off my series on use of the electronic trauma flow sheet (eTFS) with a list of the typical reasons used to justify it. 

Typically, hospital administrators pressure trauma programs to adopt an eTFS at some point after implementation of an electronic health record (EHR). For the most part, they give two reasons:

  1. We need to go paperless! The assumption is that all of the rest of the charting will be electronic, so the trauma flow sheet should be moved to this format as well.
    The reality is that there will always be some good, old-fashioned paper parts to the patient’s chart. Every hospital ward has a little cubby with some old-timey three ring binders for putting the scraps of paper that accumulate. These may be records from an outside referring hospital, a pre-hospital run sheet, blood bank tags from units of blood products, and other stuff. What typically happens to it? It gets scanned into the chart at some point. 
    So there is no reason that a paper trauma flow sheet can’t be scanned as well. The key move is that it should be scanned early so that it is available in the EHR as soon as it is complete.
  2. We need to see patient flow, vitals, meds, etc from the time they hit the door. We don’t want to miss the activity that occurs in the trauma bay, right?
    The care typically received in the trauma bay is what I would consider a singularity. It is like nothing else in the hospital stay in terms of pace, intensity, and level of activity. Being able to trend medication or blood administration from arrival through discharge is not that important. Vital signs during resuscitation may be nothing like those of the rest of the hospital stay. It’s just not that helpful to be able to connect that phase of care with the rest of it.
    But having said that, it may be helpful to be able to see all of the medications given during a hospital stay. Ideally, someone should go back and reconcile the medications after the fact. A pharmacist, perhaps?

Neither of these excuses really hold any water, so don’t get talked into trying out an eTFS because of them.

Tomorrow, I’ll write about why the eTFS doesn’t work during the trauma resuscitation phase of care.

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New Tech: Augmented Reality In The OR?

Virtual reality headsets have been all the rage for some time. They immerse the wearer in a complete virtual world, and are typically used for gaming. Augmented reality, on the other hand, overlays virtual items on the real world so both are visible at the same time. Think the notorious Pokemon Go app:

What if this technology could be used for medical purposes? You could overlay diagnostic or anatomic information on your patient to help guide therapy, surgery, etc.

A group at the University of Alberta in Canada have been playing with this technology. ProjectDR takes any kind of image-related information and projects it directly on a patient.The patient is first scanned using surface markers like they do when making movies:

Obviously, no fancy suit or huge number of markers is needed. Once this is accomplished, the diagnostic information can be projected onto the patient. The patient can move, and the projector will compensate and keep the projection anatomically correct.

Here is a short video that demonstrates the system:

So is this useful? Unfortunately, not yet. It may eventually be good for office-based trauma professionals, but it needs further refinement. This version uses an actual digital projector, which means it will be subject to shadows which will interfere with viewing, especially if a surgeon gets his or her big head in the way.

Here’s how it will really have to work: The system could function quite well in surgical procedures. Imagine the surgeon being able to don a VR headset (lightweight, please!) and see the surgical field with key information overlaid on the display. Or even easier, incorporate it in the DaVinci robotic system display. Add vital signs in the upper corner and details of anatomic structures that have not been surgically exposed yet. It could help show anatomic anomalies in great detail, such as vascular variants. And heck, why not throw in some on-demand magnification as well?

As with most new and exciting tech that hits the general media, a version that is actually usable by clinicians is several years away. But it should be fun when it finally gets here!

Reference: University of Alberta ProjectDR system

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The Next Generation 3D Bioprinter For Skin

3D printing for medical purposes (bioprinting) continues to evolve, and I’ve written a number of posts on this topic over the past 7 years. Skin bioprinting has been around for some time, but it keeps getting more and more sophisticated. Now, appropriate cell lines for the “ink” tanks can be grown in just a few days, and laid down in layers that are getting closer to real skin.

Take a look at this video to see the state of the art:

The next step: adding hair, being able to print large sheets, and ultimately printing directly onto the body!

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