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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Survey of information technology in Intensive Care Units in Ontario, Canada

Stephen E Lapinsky12*, David Holt3, David Hallett2, Mohamed Abdolell4 and Neill KJ Adhikari25

Author affiliations

1 Intensive Care Unit, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Canada

2 Interdepartmental Division of Critical Care Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

3 Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

4 Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada

5 Department of Critical Care Medicine, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Canada

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Citation and License

BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2008, 8:5  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-8-5

Published: 24 January 2008

Abstract

Background

The Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is a data-rich environment where information technology (IT) may enhance patient care. We surveyed ICUs in the province of Ontario, Canada, to determine the availability, implementation and variability of information systems.

Methods

A self-administered internet-based survey was completed by ICU directors between May and October 2006. We measured the spectrum of ICU clinical data accessible electronically, the availability of decision support tools, the availability of electronic imaging systems for radiology, the use of electronic order entry and medication administration systems, and the availability of hardware and wireless or mobile systems. We used Fisher's Exact tests to compare IT availability and Classification and Regression Trees (CART) to estimate the optimal cut-point for the number of computers per ICU bed.

Results

We obtained responses from 50 hospitals (68.5% of institutions with level 3 ICUs), of which 21 (42%) were university-affiliated. The majority electronically accessed laboratory data and imaging reports (92%) and used picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) (76%). Other computing functions were less prevalent (medication administration records 46%, physician or nursing notes 26%; medication order entry 22%). No association was noted between IT availability and ICU size or university affiliation. Sites used clinical information systems from15 different vendors and 8 different PACS systems were in use. Half of the respondents described the number of computers available as insufficient. Wireless networks and mobile computing systems were used in 23 ICUs (46%).

Conclusion

Ontario ICUs demontrate a high prevalence of the use of basic information technology systems. However, implementation of the more complex and potentially more beneficial applications is low. The wide variation in vendors utilized may impair information exchange, interoperability and uniform data collection.