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Published on February 16, 2009

Going Mobile: Phlebotomy Goes Wireless at Palos

The phlebotomists are the first at Palos Community Hospital to use handheld wireless computers and printers at patients' bedsides. The new devices streamline processes and offer benefits to both patients and staff alike.

Laboratory acquired 15 handheld computers and 15 handheld printers in an effort to improve workflow for phlebotomists and assist in consolidating patient blood draws. The devices offer four unique features: the ability to control phlebotomy workflow; a barcode scanner for positive patient identification; a thermal printer for the bedside generation of labels; and wireless technology to send and receive real-time patient order transmissions.

Anytime a physician orders a blood test for a patient, a phlebotomist is responsible for collecting a blood sample. Prior to implementation of the new technology, a phlebotomist would have to regularly report back to the Laboratory's main phlebotomy printer to retrieve these orders. Now all routine, stat and timed orders appear on these handheld computers. 

"I love the technology," says Patrice Echols, phlebotomist. "It allows me to organize my day rather than sorting through paper orders to create a plan. I also avoid repeating unneeded collections. This is a plus because some patients have many repeating blood orders and they can get tired of having their blood drawn."

Cutting Waste

"We knew there were many benefits with the new technology," explains Theresa Waters, phlebotomy coordinator. "But a couple of the benefits are wonderful. We are using much less paper and the devices are made so that labels are not wasted anymore."

Paperwork formerly required about nurses performing in-line blood draws and the need to draw blood using an alternate site has been eliminated. This information is all entered electronically and available for viewing on the handheld device. The technology also automatically sends updates to the Lab computer system, which can provide a variety of reports. For example, information regarding work load and productivity can be tracked with the system, which then can be used to help adjust staffing patterns over time, as well as to help identify instances when a phlebotomist may need additional assistance.

"The transition has been smooth, and the new technology has sparked interest in what we do," says Theresa. "It has been fun. Up on the units, nurses and physicians are intrigued by the equipment and have stopped to ask questions about the devices."