SOURCE: VHA

March 02, 2007 15:59 ET

Hospitals Preparing for Daylight Savings Time Change

Focusing on Stand-Alone, Time-Activated Devices

IRVING, TX -- (MARKET WIRE) -- March 2, 2007 -- As part of a new energy policy, the government has extended Daylight Savings Time, starting it three weeks earlier on March 11 and ending it one week later. While this may help save energy, it requires hospitals to do extra work to ensure that patient care, patient scheduling and record keeping are not compromised. VHA Inc., a health care alliance that serves 2,400 health care organizations nationwide, says that its member hospitals are working through all the technical issues now in order to be prepared.

"Hospitals need to have a plan of action around this issue and begin working that plan right now," said Mike Cummins, VHA's senior vice president of management information systems and chief information officer. "This is a non-issue for networked devices that get their time from operating systems, but the time change will be a problem for standalone devices such as lab equipment and some patient equipment."

These standalone devices may not automatically correct for the new start date or end date for Daylight Savings Time and will have to be adjusted manually. "This can be very time consuming, and the work needs to be done earlier this year," Cummins commented.

VHA surveyed its largest member hospitals and found that all of them have started addressing this issue. Members have identified problems in some charting software that could cause drug orders to be canceled or doubled. Hospital CIOs have also said that the time change could affect caregiver task lists, cancelling or doubling activities on checklists. Hospital staff members who are heavy users of Outlook and BlackBerry devices for scheduling appointments must also apply software patches from the manufacturers to fix time problems that could occur.

Cummins said hospitals should review any information system that connects with time-stamped devices -- such as digital imaging equipment and electrocardiograms (EKGs) -- or provides time-coded information for official records and simply check to see that the earlier time change won't create any problems. Hospital IT staff may need to check with the original equipment manufacturers and software developers to determine exactly how to account for the new Daylight Savings calendar. Other areas to check include scheduling systems, such as the one used for operating rooms, and security-related devices, said Cummins.

He also recommends advising all hospital personnel to double check any times that are manually recorded based on device readouts on the day of the time change to make sure the device is reflecting the proper time.

VHA looked at the change in Daylight Savings Time as part of its overall focus on finding ways to help hospitals address the thousands of variables that affect their ability to provide efficient and effective patient care.

About VHA -- VHA Inc. (www.vha.com), based in Irving, Texas, is a national alliance that provides industry-leading supply chain management services and supports the formation of regional and national networks to help members improve their clinical and economic performance. With 17 offices across the U.S., VHA has a track record of proven results in serving more than 2,400 health care organizations nationwide.

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