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Weeks Leads Greenwich Hospital Into Digital Age

It's not news that technology is making medicine safer and more effective each day. But beyond the lasers and robotic microsurgery devices, technology is changing how medical personnel handle the stacks of paperwork created for each patient.

Actually, paper is a misnomer, because much of the data is now handled electronically, thanks to people such as James Weeks, chief information officer at Greenwich Hospital . He's responsible for putting the hospital at the forefront of that transition, which makes for better, faster and most important, safer treatments for all patients.

"Eventually, everyone is going to have to go this way," he said, noting requirements in the recent health-care reform legislation. "We're just ahead of the curve," as evidenced by the Most Wired and Most Wireless awards the hospital recently received from Hospitals & Health Networks magazine.

Greenwich began installing computer terminals on the surgical floor in the early 1990s and went hospitalwide with them soon thereafter. Now, nearly all of the patient information is electronic. The benefits are many, said Weeks.

"Doctors can get patient information anywhere, anytime," he said. "They don't have to wait to read a bedside chart, lab tests or X-rays." With all information digitized, only the proper people can access it, too. "We can tell who's looked at it, for how long," Weeks said. "It guarantees patients' privacy."

It also increases safety. "We barcode and scan the patients' wristbands and meds," Weeks said. "They get the correct medicine at the proper dose," noting that the problem of deciphering doctors' notoriously illegible scrawls is a thing of the past. "It's the No. 1 thing we could have done for patient safety."

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