Is Your NICU Connected?

Evi Dewhurst / October 2015

Admit it, you’ve seen it before: Hastily scribbled and abbreviated notes written on a paper towel (or even a convenient hand) by colleagues during a shift to save documentation time. At the end of the shift those notes were entered into the hospital patient record system software. While the intent was good, the outcome may not be. Unfortunately, those time saving creative solutions could lead to reporting errors.

What if there was a better way to record data? That is the very reason EHR connectivity has become a hot topic in healthcare.

The latest buzzwords are everywhere: EMR and EHR connectivity, “meaningful use” and more. As a healthcare professional who specializes in human care, your interaction with hospital data collection software may be limited to (rather crucial) data entry at this point. However, your role may require a deeper understanding of tech reporting tools – not only the how, but the why. Patient reporting technology is trending exponential growth over time. To keep your skills sharp, it’s best to gear up on IT gadget goals and software standards beginning now rather than later.

Goals in healthcare to improve patient experience and increase staff efficiency (this means more quality time to spend with your patients) will all be impacted by the future of EHR/EMR connectivity technology. What is EHR/EMR connectivity and why is it important to you, the NICU healthcare professional?

What is EMR?
EMR is an acronym for Electronic Medical Record. These are electronic medical records kept within a hospital. You probably already use these now to record medication and nutrition delivery, along with other data, by manually entering information on a computer with the proper software. Your system may be part of a larger EHR system (see next question).

What is EHR?
EHR is an acronym for Electronic Health Record. These are real-time, patient-centered records and are more comprehensive, as they are shared hospital to hospital. The “2014 MedScape EHR Report” showed that 83% of physician poll respondents already used an EHR system. This was a 9% growth rate from the 2012 report, which reported that 74% used an EHR system.

Why do I keep hearing the term “meaningful use?”
“Meaningful use” was coined by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH). Together they created a plan outline for hospitals to demonstrate “meaningful use” of EHR technology, which meant basically this:

– Improve quality, safety, efficiency and reduce health disparities
– Engage patients and family
– Improve care coordination, and population and public health
– Maintain privacy and security of patient health information

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) also offered an incentive program to participating hospitals.

Meaningful use is comprised of three implementation stages, to occur between 2011 and 2016:

Stage 1: 2011-2012 | Data Capture and Sharing
Stage 2: 2014 | Advance Clinical Processes
Stage 3: 2016 | Improved Outcomes

Obviously, the 2016 date is fast approaching. Many hospitals will be working overtime to ensure meeting objectives.

With the advancement of EHR/EMR technology comes the ability to utilize capital equipment devices which can communicate wirelessly with the recordkeeping system. That means, for instance, that a 3:00pm, 30mL enteral feed will be recorded without the need for convenient writing surfaces – or for time-consuming manual data entry, for that matter. The information would instead transfer wirelessly from equipment to digital medical record. Talk about convenient! This is EHR/EMR connectivity capability.

How does connectivity work?
At first it may seem confusing (or not if you’re somewhat of a software ninja). The basics work like this:

Capital equipment, such as an infusion pump, wirelessly communicates with a middleware software (from another vendor) which then communicates with your digital hospital record system.

EHR System in NICU

Patient I.D. numbers and other details are entered into the device during programming (such as programming a feed or medication delivery) to properly transmit patient records. This means patient data is recorded into your EHR/EMR system immediately, and not left for later manual data entry.

What does that mean for you, the healthcare professional?

While it may mean less paper towel waste and hard-to-remove ink stains on hands, arguably the greatest benefits are the time savings and the recordkeeping accuracy. In turn, these will impact a few of those “meaningful use” goals:

  • Improve quality, safety, efficiency and reduce health disparities
  • Improve care coordination, and population and public health
  • Maintain privacy and security of patient health information

All this EHR/EMR connectivity is still in its infancy, although fast growing into teen years and demonstrating amazing potential for future healthcare recordkeeping. When your unit considers new capital equipment, it may be worth asking the following questions:

  • Does this capital equipment have EHR/EMR connectivity?
  • What middleware does it communicate with?
  • What EHR/EMR system is compatible?

Keep in mind that many departments within the hospital would be involved when first bringing in EHR/EMR connectivity equipment: IT will want information from the above three questions because they themselves would be connecting the devices to your internal EHR/EMR. This in turn creates an additional security wall for patient records.

In the NICU, you may find this connectivity especially valuable in medication delivery pumps and enteral feeding pumps. Going into 2016 it’s a safe bet your hospital will be gearing up for the “meaningful use” deadline. Having these details in mind will be useful. When IT talks about the future of recordkeeping wireless connectivity and why you should know more, you can say you are prepared!



2014 MedScape EHR Report:



About the Author

Evi Dewhurst is a Senior Manager, Marketing Communications for Medela, Inc. As a proud mother of two young children, she is passionate about healthcare for youngsters everywhere and has a serious soft spot for babies. She is part of the dedicated team at Medela, who together are committed to designing and manufacturing products to advance human milk healthcare. Have a question? Evi can be reached at