Electronic job aid to benefit healthcare workers and patients

February 26, 2003

Facing high-pressure situations and the potential for fatigue and error, nurses and aircraft maintenance personnel have a lot in common. To help the healthcare system address these problems, researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) have adapted an electronic job aid and reference tool they designed for aircraft maintenance workers. The tool is intended to improve the performance of nurses and other hospital personnel.

Called the medical electronic performance support system (MedEPSS), the technology is based on the award-winning maintainer's electronic performance support system (MEPSSÔ) developed by Gisele Welch, director of GTRI's Logistics and Maintenance Applied Research Center (LandMARC) and her colleagues. MEPSS was designed for military maintenance workers who repair P-3 aircraft for the U.S. Navy.

Like its predecessor, MedEPSS offers a secure and mobile source of reference material, specialized training materials and ready access to vital records. For time-pressed nurses, ready access to patient history, drug information, medical references and automated diagnostic tools could be a lifesaver -- literally, Welch said.

MedEPSS also could relieve some of the workplace pressures nurses face, such as patient overloads stemming from the national shortage of nurses, healthcare worker errors and increased demands for more specialized care, Welch added.

"There are lots of tools available for doctors," she explained, "but very little focus on nurses."

Now in the pilot testing phase, MedEPSS operates as Web-based software on handheld hardware, such as Compac's iPac. Secure and portable, the system offers multiple benefits: Patient care could be optimized, diagnoses made more quickly and easily, and errors (including those associated with the administration of drugs) could be reduced.

Training, including refresher training, also could be enhanced by the device, increasing throughput as nurses receive less classroom and more in-service training. In the military, where the MEPSSÔ is in use, classroom instruction is supplemented or even replaced. This on-demand training has already resulted in fewer errors and a marked improvement in performance results among maintenance workers, Welch said.

Beyond the patient's bedside, MedEPSS could have other applications in the healthcare industry. In a hospital's business office, for example, the same technology could be used to speed admissions procedures and reduce billing and paperwork errors, a common problem in hospitals. Likewise, laboratories could use MedEPSS to input lab results as they become available and transmit them directly to physicians. The possibilities are enormous, Welch explained.

At Grady Health System in Atlanta, where MedEPSS is being tested, enthusiasm for the system is high.

"The system will be useful for our nursing staff," said Rosiland Harris, director, Patient Care Quality Management and Education at Grady. "It will give them better access to policies, procedures and performance improvement tools." She noted the need for increased efficiency in large environments like Grady, the largest receiving hospital in the Southeast.

Welch and officials at Grady hope that MedEPSS ultimately will provide the healthcare industry with a new generation of performance support systems that are user-friendly, integrated and secure, Welch added.
For technical information, contact:
Gisele Welch, 404-894-0155 or

The release can also be viewed at http://gtresearchnews.gatech.edu/newsrelease/medepss.htm

Georgia Institute of Technology Research News

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