In the ICU with Dr. Chris O'Connor and his BlackBerry Device
Since August 2005, Dr. Chris O’Connor, Director of Medical Informatics at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Trillium Health Centre in Mississauga, Canada, has been test-driving 35 BlackBerry® devices to gauge how the device could be used to deliver care more effectively.
As director, Dr. O’Connor is responsible for up to 35 staff—doctors, nurses, dieticians and other specialists—delivering intensive care on a 24-hour cycle. Ongoing contact between members of the healthcare team is intrinsic to what Dr. O’Connor does. For a patient, it can spell the difference between life and death.
A year and a half ago, Dr. O’Connor found himself increasingly frustrated by the pagers and written notes that make up standard methods of communication in most hospitals. At one point, a feeding tube was inserted into a patient’s nose and was feeding nutrients into the patient’s lung—a near-fatal mistake. The culprit? Poor communication.
Concerned by the enormous potential cost of such gaffes in the ward, Dr. O’Connor decided to try a new tack: rolling out the BlackBerry device in the ICU. Trillium is the first hospital in the world to use it in this way claims Dr. O’Connor. Just over a year into the study, the physician says the transformation has been incredible. He finds his team is now able to deliver care much faster and more efficiently. As an added bonus, there’s always a “paper” email trail to ensure the right care is given at the right time.
“When we first implemented the BlackBerry [devices] in the ICU unit, originally I thought that I would receive the messages and respond to them in the old-fashioned way,” explains Dr. O’Connor. “It never occurred to me that I could actually reply with orders and treatment. Once I did my first treatment over email, the benefit was blindingly obvious.”
Communicating is fundamental to healthcare, which is delivered by large interdisciplinary teams—physicians, nurses, dieticians, social workers, unit clerks and respiratory therapists. These people are always busy—and always mobile. “If you can help them communicate with each other faster, easier and more efficiently without interrupting them—well, that is a profound difference,” says Dr. O’Connor. “That’s why the BlackBerry solution offers such a benefit.”
Before, the hospital used a combination of overhead paging, receive-only pagers, physically going to look for people—and writing bits of information down on scrap pieces of paper and waiting for others to find them. “Now,” says Dr. O’Connor, “all I do is reply to email.” An appropriate response may range from coming to the bedside if it is urgent; forwarding the message to another member of the healthcare team; or simply responding with an email. Using the BlackBerry device, Dr. O’Connor found he could start treating the patient before he even gets to the bedside.
“It is remarkable to me, that in 2006, people are still using receive-only numeric pagers,” says Dr. O’Connor. “It is the worst possible communication tool one can use, and yet it is the norm in medicine today. I still remember Pager Liberation Day: the day I released my pager and it sailed down to the bottom of the garbage pail and I never saw it again. That was fantastic and I have never looked back.”
A full Q&A is published in this month’s Business Solutions Edition: Corner Office Q&A with Dr. Chris O’Connor.
News coverage of the Trillium Health Centre ICU trial:
Global News – “BlackBerries saving lives in hospital experiment” (Video feed)
Toronto Star – “Hospital catches BlackBerry fever”
Canadian Healthcare Technology – “Wireless BlackBerry transforms communication at Trillium's ICU”
Additional resources for healthcare professionals:
The latest offer for Medical Professionals: get the Sanford Guide and Taracson Pharmacopoeia from USBMIS, Lexi-Comp® ON HAND™ or PEPID for your BlackBerry device today @ www.blackberry.com/go/whatif
Webcast – BlackBerry for Hospitals and Clinics - Bedside Access to Voice and Data (featuring Dr. O'Connor)
Website – BlackBerry Business Solutions for Healthcare