Health Goes High Tech

By Hannah Wallace October 31, 2005


We've all heard stories about people accidentally getting the wrong medications at hospitals. Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, along with 14 other HCA-affiliated hospitals on Florida's West Coast, now uses technology to prevent that from happening.

Under the electronic Medication Administration Record & Bar Coding system (eMAR), each patient receives a bar-coded armband that hospital staff must scan before administering medication. Each dosage also gets a bar code, which staffers scan as well to determine that patient and meds match up. If any problems are identified, warning signals prompt for verification or doctor approval.

"For years, we always documented medications on paper," says Susan Laber, associate nurse executive and patient-safety officer at Doctors Hospital of Sarasota. "The only purpose of that was for the medication administration record. What's really neat about eMAR is that it does so much more than documenting."

For example, the hospital can use eMAR to study medication delivery timeliness, since actions are recorded in real time (rather than human approximation). The system can also show how many medication errors have been prevented. And because everything is done electronically, there's no need to decipher someone's bad handwriting to determine who medicated a patient. "It really raises the bar to a higher standard for patient safety," says Laber.


Pre-registering for a scheduled procedure at Manatee Memorial Hospital can now be done at any time of the day from anywhere, thanks to the hospital's new online pre-registration program. REGIE (Request for pre-registration E-mail Generated Information Exchange) allows patients to answer questions about everything from treatment history to insurance information before arriving at the hospital.

"We always try to pre-register everybody, but we used to have to do it by phone," says Tammy Grant, director of admissions at Manatee Memorial. "And of course we have limited hours, so we couldn't always get everybody. This new system greatly improves patients' flow through the system once they get here. It can shave a lot of time off the registration process, and we can get patients on their way very quickly."

To use REGIE, patients just visit the hospital's Web site,, and fill out the online form at least 72 hours before their scheduled procedure. The information is encrypted and sent over a secure connection, similar to the way online banking transactions are handled. And because the hospital receives the information ahead of time, it can pre-verify a patient's insurance coverage or obtain any needed authorization, "so there are no surprises or unexpected delays," says Grant.


A drug has to go through many steps to make it to market, and Clinipace, a company based in North Carolina's Research Triangle, has introduced a Web-based solution to help doctors record their own and track others' late-stage data.

Startup Florida, a Sarasota-based venture development group focused on high-tech endeavors, recently invested in Clinipace. "Part of the appeal was that the technology was licensed out of the University of Florida," says Jason Broom, a managing partner at Startup Florida. "We also liked the fact that, just through coincidence, Clinipace's CEO, Jeff Williams, grew up in Sarasota." Broom adds that Williams has shown interest in relocating the company to or opening a satellite office in Sarasota.

Carrying out a large study via a paper-based method can be cumbersome and cost prohibitive. "Clinipace can do it for less money and more efficiently, and the data is more easily reused since it's in an electronic format," says Broom. Clinipace also offers Web-based software for creating patient, drug and disease registries so that hospitals, drug companies or other organizations can upload data and mine it for trends.

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