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She gets out of her car in front of the patient's home. Reaching into the back seat, she gathers up a medical bag with her stethoscope and blood pressure cuff, a 3-ring binder, her tablet computer, perhaps a coat and umbrella, and the stack of teaching sheets she might need to leave in the home. It takes a few extra minutes to sort through the many forms and teaching sheets she keeps in her car until she finds the right ones for this patient. After the visit, she returns bag, binder, and computer to their respective thrones on the back seat.

She goes through this routine anywhere from three to nine times a day.

You are the owner of her home healthcare agency. Recruitment and retention of clinical staff -- in other words, staff satisfaction -- is the headache that keeps you awake nights. The last thing you want to do is ask her to carry one more device. But you have heard about the efficiencies that can be gained if your mobile computers could print right in the patient's home. Do you do it?

"ABSOLUTELY," proclaims Jean Gonynor, MS, MBA, RN, NE-BS, CHCA, administrator of Nightingale Home Healthcare in Phoenix. "We equipped all of our field nurses and therapists with a one-pound Brother mobile printer and they couldn't be happier."

The list of advantages Gonynor described to us in a recent interview is lengthy. Immediately, the stack of documents disappeared from the back seat. "You never know what medication and exercise teaching sheets you might need before you meet the patient," she explained. "So you have to weigh the pros and cons of bringing everything into the home just in case versus running back out to the car to get what you need after the assessment. Now, they just bring the little printer and four or five blank sheets of paper."

Brother PocketJet
Brother PocketJet

Med Lists

Printing patient medication lists on the spot is the biggest time saver, she added. "On that first visit, and often during subsequent visits, you don't have an up-to-date med list. You might have one from the hospital but they don't know what else is in the home. You might have one from a doctor not affiliated with the hospital who doesn't have access to the hospital's EMR. And you might find a collection of benign or risky herbal supplements in the cupboard. With a mobile printer, you can update your software and print a complete, accurate teaching sheet."

According to Ms. Gonynor, the Brother "PocketJet" printers they use are small and compact, which makes them easy to carry. "That's critical," she said, "because our clinicians already have so much in the tool kits they travel with, including a wound supply kit, a blood pressure cuff, scale, gate belt and tape measure."

The printers also use thermal printing technology, which means they do not need ink. "This is important here," Gonynor continued. "We are in the desert, which means the ink would be likely to dry out, constantly causing problems." She added that Nightingale's IT department found it to be easy to get new employees up and running with the mobile printer.

Regarding patient care quality, she said, "A computer-generated, printed medication list will be clearer to read than a handwritten one, which helps prevent medication errors. And having the ability to edit a care plan in real time and then print it for the rest of the care team is huge for care coordination. It can be a challenge to keep the correct, most up-to-date care plan in everyone’s hands, especially in the case of long-term patients with several different caregivers.

"Think about it," she continued. "It can take 20 minutes to enter all of a patient’s meds into their computer. If the clinicians then have to write it out on paper to leave in the home, they're doubling their time spent on the same task. The ability to save 20 minutes per visit throughout the day adds up to having time to see an extra patient. The added advantage is that the less time the clinicians have to spend on administrative tasks, the more time they have to focus on what they are there for – providing patient care.

EMR Compatibility

Nightingale's EMR software, CareVoyant, was not previously set up to print to a mobile, thermal, Bluetooth printer but the vendor stepped up and accommodated Nightingale's requirements without hesitation. "They saw it as a challenge and, though they were initially unsure about making a software adjustment for one customer," Gonynor said, "they were soon convinced that it is likely the practice of using mobile printers will catch on and other customers will be asking for the interface."

To learn more about Brother Mobile Solutions’ next-generation mobile printing solutions:

©2018 by Rowan Consulting Associates, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Tim Rowan's Home Care Technology Report. One copy may be printed for personal use; further reproduction by permission only.