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Computers Aid E.R. Efficiency

A trip to the emergency room is never a quick one. Many hospitals are trying to shorten the long wait patients must endure with new technology. Reporter Melissa Buscher of CBS News affiliate WRAL-TV in Raleigh, N.C., has the story.

Cape Fear Valley Hospital in Fayetteveille, N.C., and other hospitals throughout the state are now using portable computers called Point of Care. A patient's information is taken right at his or her bedside and the information will follow them throughout their stay. Nurses use the computers to type in vital signs and other information.

"Before we had to come down here, write on a piece of paper all the information we needed, go back to the office, type it up, put it into the computer...and it took longer. It just delayed treatment for patients," says Juanita Griffin, a registration clerk at the hospital.

Hospitals across the country are beginning to use the computer technology as a first step in replacing paper charts. Tests can be ordered through the Point of Care computer and results will be stored as soon as they are received.

Hospital workers say that will save several minutes, which is often crucial in trauma cases.

"It allows us to register patients, get information in and get access to their numbers so we can provide treatment," says Clinical Project Leader Dawn Esslinger.

Cape Fear Valley hopes to have these computers throughout the hospital within 18 months.

The computers have been especially helpful in the pediatric emergency rooms, where physicians can get information from parents without having to leave the child's bedside.

The machines are expected to become a fixture in most emergency rooms within a few years as a basic part of trauma care.

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