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Medical Staff Get Shot In Arm with Wireless System

Dino Marchitello, a veteran skilled-nursing home aide, spends his workday helping patients find the way from bed to bathroom, to walker or wheelchair, to dining room and back again. He also handles numerous small but vital tasks meanwhile.

Up until recently, what awaited near the end of an eight-hour shift? At least 45 minutes of paperwork to document every action he had taken all through the day.

Marchitello, for 17 years a certified nursing assistant at Seneca Place in Penn Hills said, "It was a big push to get all the charting in by 3 o'clock. Now I don't have a mountain of paperwork waiting for me."

Martchitello's job has been eased by the use of AccuNurse, a wireless, voice-activated system for collecting data on patient care that the nursing home started using in February. The system has also been made use of at two other of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's four skilled-nursing homes, Cranberry Place and Heritage Shadyside.

At Seneca Place, the facility's 60 nursing aides every wear a lightweight headset connected to a device the size of a cell phone that straps to the waist or slips in a pocket.

After exiting a patient's room, the aide slips the headset over his or her ears. Speaking the room number into the mouthpiece, the system asks questions in relation to the patient care, based on a template established and updated by the nursing supervisor.

Aides briefly answer to queries about a patient's dressing, grooming and toileting. They note whether and how much assistance was needed. The information then is automatically is downloaded to the facility's computer and integrated into federally mandated reports.

Medicare, the federal insurance program for the elderly and disabled, links such record keeping to reimbursements.

Officials at Seneca Place, part of UPMC, look forward to increasing Medicare reimbursements by almost $376,000 this year because of AccuNurse.

Daniel Grant, UPMC's regional director of nursing facilities, did not say how much the facility receives from Medicare, but illustrated the increase to the overall amount as "minimal."

Chuck Emerick, director of nursing at Seneca Place said, "It's very tough to remember all the care provided for 10 or more residents throughout the day. We weren't capturing the true care that was provided."

Aides taking on new patients use the system to get back information on their requirements. Aides also can make use of the headset to call for assistance when required.

Emerick said, "Before, if you needed help, you'd have to run out to the hall and yell for someone. This way, they don't have to leave the patient's side."

AccuNurse is a program first pioneered by Adherence Technology, a Dulles, Va., company founded in 1992 by Alan and Stephanie Letzt, graduates of Carnegie Mellon University and Pitt, correspondingly.

Adherence Technology was acquired by Vocollect Inc., of Wilkins, in March 2006, with Adherence repositioned and renamed Vocollect Healthcare Systems. The company now employs 30 people locally at its Rodi Road location, adjacent to the parent company.

Vocollect Inc., which takes up 310 locally, makes Vocollect Voice, a similar voice-activated technology made use of by warehouse and distribution workers for such retailers as Giant Eagle, Pep Boys, Office Depot and Pier One Imports. Vocollect has offices in the United Kingdom, Japan and a Miami-based Latin America office.

A newer version of AccuNurse is being tried out at UPMC's Canterbury Place in Lawrenceville. It is likely to come online by spring, said Mike Loughery, technical product manager.



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