Researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) have been awarded a four-year, $1.9 million grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to enhance the care in hospital emergency departments.
The mission of the AHRQ, one of 12 agencies in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is to improve the quality, safety, efficiency and effectiveness of health care for all Americans.
The focus of the study led by Jiajie Zhang, Ph.D., interim dean of the UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics, is to make sure the right information gets to the right people at the right time.
Zhang and his colleagues are studying how emergency medicine doctors deal with a high workload, constant interruptions and multitasking. Researchers are particularly interested in how doctors switch back and forth between tasks and how this affects their decision making.
The goal of the study, which involves observing the health care team, is to develop interventions to reduce information overload and improve communication.
"We want to help doctors look five moves ahead," said Amy Franklin, Ph.D., co-leader of the project with Zhang and assistant professor of biomedical informatics at UTHealth. "We are using state-of-the-art electronic health record systems to improve access to data."
Brent King, M.D., co-investigator and chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the UTHealth Medical School, said, "Right now, most information is communicated verbally."
The study will be conducted at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, which has the nation's busiest trauma center. In 2009, the nation's emergency departments had 136 million visits and about a third of those visits were for injuries.
Those interventions, for example, could be an emergency department "dashboard" that would display vital information for groups of patients or individual patients.